From Sat Jan 18 16:00:10 2003
Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 13:52:24 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 14533: Hermantin: Miami-Herald—Thousands of Haitian teachers strike (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <>

Thousands of Haitian teachers strike

By Jane Regan, The Miami Herald, Friday 17 January 2003

PORT-AU-PRINCE—Classrooms across the country were silent Thursday as more than 15,000 public school teachers began a two-day walkout to protest working conditions and high fuel prices and to demand a 250 percent cost-of-living raise.

Five teachers’ unions called the strike. A number of private schools in the capital closed their doors in solidarity. The strike comes after fuel prices were raised about 80 percent on Jan. 1.

The government said it was open to dialogue and urged teachers not to strike, but a meeting between unions and the Ministry of Education on Wednesday failed to halt the action.

The ministry said it was a ‘social dialogue,’ not a negotiation, said Rene Jolibois, assistant secretary of the National Confederation of Haitian Teachers.

The strike came during a week of anti-government turmoil.

A protest against higher fuel prices on Tuesday ended with more than a dozen people injured and one man dead after police fired shots at a barricade.

Kattley Charles, a primary school teacher, said she regretted making children miss school but she had to strike.

At her school on the outskirts of the capital, she said she struggles to teach her classroom of 150 5- and 6-year-olds how to read.

I work with 15 or 20 kids at a time, and the cleaning lady looks after the rest, said Charles. All of them are crammed into one room. It’s like a jail.

As the value of the Haitian currency, the gourde, continues to fall, the buying power of Charles’ 625 gourdes per week has dropped to about $15. High school teachers earn more, about 2,060 gourdes, or $50 per week.

I spend 56 gourdes a day just for buses. That’s 280 gourdes [$6.83] just to get to work and back. Charles said. How am I supposed to make ends meet?

According to UNICEF, only about two-thirds of Haitian children, and only half the girls, attend school. With only 13 percent of Haitian students enrolled in the country’s public school system, the strike mainly affects the poorest students.

I can’t say I agree with the strike, since we pay for it by missing classes, but I can’t say I’m against it either, said 19-year-old Ronald Joseph, as he sat in the empty yard at a local high school.

The strike came on a day when 184 organizations from business, union and other sectors condemned the government for failing to respond by their Jan. 15 deadline to a list of demands related to state tolerance of armed gangs and persecution of the opposition.