The Untold Story of Female Teachers in Iran’s Chaotic Education System
The Disturbing Plight of Female Teachers and Teachers’ Poverty in Iran.
Five ministers and four caretakers have run the Iranian Ministry of Education in the last ten years. Even Khamenei acknowledged the chaotic situation in that ministry.
This situation results from the miserable 40-year management of a ministry training and educating children in Iran.
Public schools are characterized by the lack of facilities and equipment and the corrosion of the infrastructure. At the same time, thousands of students in underprivileged areas are deprived of facilities.
In addition, the clerical regime cannot tolerate freedom-loving teachers. “Unfortunately, teachers and their respect and status are increasingly ignored. The authority and role of a teacher in class has degraded to the level of an observer.” (The state-run Alef website, May 4, 2023)
In February, the Iranian Minister of Education said, “Today, 64 percent of the country’s educators are women. (The state-run borna.news, January 23, 2023)
The Education Ministry’s Advisor for Women’s Affairs has also announced 500,000 female teachers. An additional 50,000 female teachers are (college) students. Thirty-two thousand of these teachers are working as managers in the Education Ministry. (The state-run iraneconomist.com, January 23, 2023)
Shortage of teachers in the Education Ministry
Lacking a permanent minister is not the only problem the Ministry of Education faces. There is a shortage of 300,000 teachers and 50,000 trainers.
By global standards, the shortage of teachers is even more than the announced figure.
“Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education advances its work by outdated methods, or according to experts, by exploiting teachers.” (The state-run hammihanonline.ir, May 13, 2023)
The University of Educators (Farhangian), responsible for teacher training, does not have a bright perspective because it could not compensate for the teacher shortage due to decreased student recruitment in 2014-2016. (The state-run Qudsonline.ir, May 2, 2023)
The teacher shortage is compensated by recruiting “conscript soldiers” and buying teaching services. Most of these teachers go to the classrooms without passing the teachers’ training courses. In light of the type of contract, most of them do not have job security and, therefore, any motivation to teach. (The state-run Qudsonline.ir, May 2, 2023)
Mohammad Mohammadi, Director General of the Office of Primary Education, states: “The teachers, who were employed in the Ministry of Education from the beginning of the revolution (1979) until 1991, have either retired in recent years with 30 to 35 years of services or are on the verge of retirement. We face many retirements from the past few years to the next few years.
These retirements have caused a shortage of human force at the primary and secondary levels. Considering that we did not train any teachers for 15 years, we now face a shortage of teachers.
In addition, in the 2014-2016 period, the University of Educators (Farhangian) student recruitment reached its lowest possible number. All these factors, together, have brought about the current situation. (The state-run Qudsonline.ir, May 2, 2023)
Iran has been facing a shortage of teachers for years. However, thousands of qualified teachers live in miserable conditions without official employment.
The policy of the Education Ministry for overcoming the shortage of teachers has been to recruit unofficial teachers under different titles on temporary contracts to pay lower salaries.
Unofficial teachers are deprived of the minimum salary, insurance coverage, and benefits of official teachers. The official and unofficial teachers do not receive their meager salaries for months.
There is no job security for teachers who work in the private sector, and their contracts are temporary and annual, like private sector workers. (The state-run hammihanonline.ir, April 11, 2023)
Female Teachers’ Poverty in Iran
“We are witnessing a huge gap between the teachers’ salary ceiling, which is now on average between 7 million and 9 million Tomans, and the poverty line that, according to statistics, is over 20 million Tomans,” said the spokesperson of the Teachers’ Union. He added, “Even if the Ranking Plan is fully implemented, it cannot answer the teachers’ living needs in the current circumstances. The gap between wages and the poverty line has constantly increased over the years, and today it has reached its highest level.” (The state-run hammihanonline.ir, April 11, 2023)
Currently, the teachers’ minimum salary is 5.6 million Tomans. Suppose the Ranking Plan is implemented according to their work experience and the conditions set by the Ministry of Education. In that case, their salaries will increase by 45% in the first stage. But the ranking system has not yet been implemented. (The state-run irantahsil.org, April 16, 2023)
It is said that the salary of student teachers in 2023 will be 7 million and 920 thousand Tomans. Still, the implementation of this salary increase also needs the approval of the Parliament and the approval of the Guardian Council. Still, 20-45% of this amount would be deducted for university and dormitory services. (The state-run irantahsil.org, April 16, 2023)
“Most teachers should have been ranked level 3 based on the ranking regulations. While only 1,200 out of one million official teachers of the Education Ministry were ranked the maximum level 5,” said an Education Ministry teacher on the ranking system. She added, “As a teacher with nearly 30 years of experience with a master’s degree and as a book translator, I was ranked level 2. Many experienced and well-educated teachers received the minimum rankings of level 1 and 2 out of 5.”
“Most of the teachers, i.e., between 60 and 70 percent, received ranks below 3, which means they were included in the ranks of zero, one, and two,” she added. (The state-run irantahsil.org, April 16, 2023)
The salary of primary teachers is currently 6.7 million Tomans. (The state-run Pasokh-be-ma website, April 2023)
There was no representative from the teachers when ranking the teachers without considering their educational qualifications and work records. 80% of teachers’ salaries do not reach even 8 million Tomans.
“According to our studies, 54% of teachers in Tehran live below the income poverty line. Of course, teachers’ poverty is increasing daily,” an economic expert told the Sharq newspaper. (The state-run Sharghdaily.com, December 2, 2022)
Based on the latest figures announced by the government, the average income of our retired teachers does not reach even 6 million Tomans. Now concerning the poverty line and inflation, the income of teachers and retirees, if not below the absolute poverty line, is equal to absolute poverty. (The state-run Khabaronline.ir, December 16, 2021)
“The budget for our Ministry of Education is not realistic and operational. For 30 years, the credits for this ministry do not correspond to reality,” said Ebrahim Saharkhiz, the former deputy Minister of Education. Referring to the shortage of 300,000 teachers, he added, “We use retired teachers for shortages, who work 24 hours overtime in addition to 24 hours of classes per week, but one-third of their salaries are paid to them after one year, and these arrears are troublesome and cause protests.” (The state-run shafaqna.com, December 29, 2021)
Over the past three decades, teachers and educators have been protesting the chaotic state of education, educational deficiencies, and unfair living conditions. The recent protests and demonstrations by teachers have become widespread nationwide, where women teachers have played a prominent role.
However, the teachers’ demands are not solely limited to economic issues. The lack of human force, inadequate budget allocation to the Ministry of Education, the content of textbooks, educational injustice, discrimination in rights and benefits compared to other government employees, manipulation of educators’ mental and psychological well-being with unprofessional and oppressive plans such as ranking and full-time teaching, disregard for the dignity of teachers, inefficient insurance for educators, etc. are issues that the larger community of educators are protesting against.
An educational expert said, “Teachers have been protesting for decades about the gap between their income, the average income in society, and the poverty line.
On the Educators Savings Fund, she stated: “This fund belongs to teachers who deposit a portion of their monthly salary into it. But when they see a teacher with a doctoral degree receiving 8.5 million Tomans in salary. In comparison, the CEO of Dena Petrochemicals receives a salary of 73 million Tomans; they become protesters.” (The state-run borna.news, January 11, 2022)
The teachers’ protest demonstrations have continued this year in 14 provinces, demanding the release of imprisoned teachers and protesting the system’s unfair ranking and incompetence. However, the price they pay may be imprisonment, captivity, and dismissal. Those who once had a decent livelihood now raise their voice like millions of workers, laborers, and retirees in the face of soaring inflation caused by the mullahs’ oppressive regime.
Teachers chanted in their protests, “Teachers, cry out and demand your rights” or “Free the imprisoned teachers.”
Today, the Iranian teachers who suffer from poverty and the students who have become child laborers, workers, and laborers have no choice but to bring down the mullahs’ disgraceful regime. Their first and last option is to cry out their anger in the streets.