Burundian government faces teachers' strike

Burundian elementary school teachers were conducting a strike as a result of the government's failure to give raises and to pay promised bonuses.

The 30,000 striking teachers also want government housing that they were promised years ago, according to the head of the primary teachers union, Eularie Nibizi.

"If negotiations fail within a week, we will adopt other strategies," Nibizi said Tuesday, without elaborating.

The government said budget constraints were preventing it from providing housing or salary raises. Education Minister Saidi Kibeya said Tuesday a committee had been set up to review the teachers' demands.

"The committee will ensure that all the teachers' demands are addressed with the required attention," Kibeya said.

Salary arrears promised as bonuses and raises five years ago now amount to about US$1 million (Ђ700,000), Nibizi said.

Basic salaries starting at US$42 (Ђ30) for primary school teachers, and US$67 (Ђ47) for secondary school teachers were not in arrears.

The strike, which started Tuesday, forced public primary schools to close throughout the tiny East African nation, affecting more than 80 percent of children, Nibizi said. Private schools were operating as usual.

As the primary school teachers began their strike, another two-week stoppage by secondary school teachers ended. Those teachers also were protesting back payments and demanding better working conditions.

Union chairman Philbert Nganzahayo said the secondary school teachers would go back to work, after the government had announced the review committee.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova