Education Min. to Ask State to Stop High-school Teachers' Strike

The Education Ministry is preparing to ask the state to issue an injunction to prevent high-school teachers from following through with their intention to strike again tomorrow.

Ministry director general Shmuel Abuav explained that a strike by high-school teachers represented by the Secondary School Teachers Association would affect some 200,000 students, who are supposed to take exams this week that determine the classroom grades that are later factored in with their matriculation exam scores.

Ran Erez, association chairman, acknowledged that a strike would hurt students, but added that "the government was hurting them much more." According to him, the government has cut 8.5 weekly classroom hours from the curriculum in recent years. "The government is striking for 1.5 days every week," he charged, adding that the ministry's intention to issue injunctions was "irresponsible" and aimed to prevent the teachers from changing the current situation.

Meanwhile, the Teachers' Union began negotiations yesterday with the treasury over a new work settlement. The union hopes to receive a 30-percent pay increase and, as published yesterday in Haaretz, the treasury is not averse to this, but is demanding an increase also in classroom hours as well as other changes.

"We are pleased to see that the treasury is willing to increase teachers' pay, and the specific terms required of us in return will be discussed during negotiations," the union spokeswoman said.

In parallel, the students' strike at universities and other institutions of higher education entered its sixth day today. Hundreds of students staged demonstrations and protests, demanding a reduction in tuition fees. The students also protested the cutback of NIS 1 billion from the budget for higher education.

In recent days, students at the Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College in Tel Aviv - which does not have a student union or association - have formed a group dedicated to the struggle for improving higher education. The members pledged "to fight for the right for higher education and against the principles of privatization that the Shochat Committee is trying to coerce the institution into adopting."

The group intends to maintain a permanent presence across from the college, situated at the junction of Namir Road and Arlosoroff Street, and it has decided to hand out leaflets to passersby. Discussions will be held on campus today so the group can explain the purpose of the struggle, its background and strategies.

Some 400 students at Tel Hai Academic College in the Galilee also held demonstrations yesterday, in Kiryat Shmona, and about 70 students from Afeka College in Tel Aviv also protested. The demonstrators claimed that they had been subjected to violence by police officers at the scene.

Students at the Oranim School of Education of the Kibbutz Movement also demonstrated yesterday in protest of the Shochat Committee, headed by former finance minister Avraham "Beiga" Shochat. Some 130 students held a demonstration at Yagur junction and "protest classes." One of the organizers, Itzik Shmuli, chairman of Oranim's student association, said that the committee was trying to tempt the students into agreeing to a raise in tuition so that they will accept a loan system.

"We already have a loan system, which students refrain from using because they are are not sure that they will have a regular source of income in the future," he said.