Teachers across Bulgaria went on strike to demand higher wages

Teachers across Bulgaria went on strike Friday to demand higher wages and an increase in funding for education. Classes were interrupted for an hour at about 80 percent of this Balkan country's schools and kindergartens, said Stefan Valkov, the deputy head of the Union of Bulgarian Teachers. He was unable to say how many teachers took part in the walkout.

Teachers, who have been protesting for more than three weeks, are seeking a pay rise of at least 15 percent and a budget allocation of 5 percent of the gross domestic product for education next year. The government has offered a 3 percent pay hike in January, and a 6 percent rise next July. It plans to spend about 4 percent of GDP on education.

Teachers have threatened to launch a full national strike on Monday, if their demands were not met. Education Minister Daniel Valchev, however, said funding was limited.

"No one questions the fact that teachers' demands are just, but the problem is that we are constricted within the budgetary limits," he said. There are some 100,000 teachers in Bulgaria's public schools, and their average monthly wage is 300 leva, which is about Ђ150 or US$175, reports the AP. I.L.

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