When teachers in Kosovo went on what ultimately became a five-week strike for better pay and improved classroom resources last autumn, they did so as a last resort, says Rrahman Jasharaj, chair of the teacher’s union, SBSSHK.

“For nine months we tried to negotiate with the government. When the government decides to block the doors and dismiss dialog as a tool for a solution, then there is no other option but striking. And this is very difficult situation for all of us,” Jasharaj said on the latest episode of The Solidarity Center Podcast.

Kosovo teacher strike, 2022, unions, Solidarity Center

Kosovo teachers waged a five-week strike as a last resort after months of seeking talks with the government. Credit: RTE / RL

With no salary increase for years, “Kosovo teachers can hardly afford their livelihood of their families, and they cannot even manage to pass through from one month to another,” he said.

Jasharaj, who in the late 1990s taught children under heartbreaking conditions during the war, said that while the government indicates it will raise salaries in coming weeks, it has shut out teachers and their unions from salary discussions.

He told Solidarity Center Executive Director and podcast host Shawna Bader-Blau that during the war and again throughout the recent strike, teachers and their unions from around the world, including Education International and the U.S.-based AFT, offered their support and resources.

Ultimately, Jasharaj says, it is essential the government see teachers and their unions as partners in building a first-class education system for Kosovo children.

“We’re trying to establish a mutual cooperation network,” he says. Meanwhile: “My colleagues in all Kosovo schools are currently battling for education only by a chalk, sponge, whiteboard, and lacking basic tools and requisites for conducting the proper teaching process.”

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