– On Monday, June 7, 2021 state run media announced that schools have reopened in Tigray’s capital Mekelle. It was also announced that 30 private and 32 government schools started the learning process, said state run media quoting the region’s deputy head of education bureau, Aster Yetbarek (Engineer).
According to different reports by media outlets and humanitarian organizations, government schools have been serving as IDP centers during the conflict in the region. Tsegalem Kidanemariam is the chairman of the committee set up by the teachers based in Mekelle to settle the issue of salaries of private school teachers. He said “We held a meeting with seven committee members of the teachers committee on Tuesday, we haven’t started teaching as of yet.”, adding, “The same is true for the 1700 teachers of the private schools in Mekelle.’’
It has been Eight months since the conflict between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) started. Even though the government announced the end of the military operation after capturing the region’s capital on November 28, different parties claim that the conflict is still ongoing, especially in the rural part of the region. More than two million people are internally displaced. People from the rural part of the region and Western Tigray flocked to the region’s capital Mekelle and other cities like Share Adigrat and Aksum.
Tsegalem explained that teachers were ordered to start teaching on a very short notice. According to the chairman and other teachers who Addis Standard spoke to, there are critical pre-conditions they demand to be met before they start teaching. Months of unpaid salary and the fate of IDPs sheltered in the schools are the main pre conditions stated by the teachers. ‘’Us teachers in Haweliti sub city, the largest one in the city, left the meeting with the region’s educational bureau officials without reaching an agreement.” Tsegalem said.
He also stated that the teachers’ concerns include the psychological condition of their students. “Although we’d like to see our students back in school, we can’t pretend like everything is normal.” he said, adding “The students are traumatized. That should be addressed before we proceed to the teaching.” He complained that the regional educational bureau ignored the teachers’ attempt to discuss a conducive environment for resuming classes.
Tsefaye Amare, an education expert in one of the private schools told Addis Standard that what the government media reported about the resumption of classes in Mekelle is ‘a total lie.’ State broadcasters yesterday reported that classes resumed in public schools. However, a number of parents of students in private schools who spoke via phone to Addis Standard on the condition of anonymity, corroborated teachers’ testimonies. Parents said that private schools are yet to enroll students.
Earlier in February, the former Mayor of Mekelle for the Interim Administration, Atakilti Haileselassie said that classes would resume as of February 8, 2021, adding that the city was in a state of peace and security and precautionary measures would be taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus to commence classes in all levels.
Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to have comments from both the deputy head of the education bureau and the head of social affairs bureau in the Tigray interim administration were to no avail.