The financial crisis in Algeria will not affect schooling, the education minister has said in an attempt to ease growing tensions.
Nouria Benghabrit announced that 102 educational institutes had been established this year and others were under construction. They are part of several projects on which a financial freeze has been lifted for the 2017 financial year.
Although the sector remains a priority in public spending, the minister revealed that its operating budget does not exceed 15 per cent of the overall budget allocated with the remaining 85 per cent allocated to salaries.
Administrative supervision therefore has been affected by austerity and is insufficient to cover the needs of the 27,000 schools in the sector.
The minister also minimised claims by parents and teachers of overcrowded classes with children forced to sit on the floor due to a lack of tables and chairs available to accommodate them.
Only 5.67% of schools are confronted with it [overcrowding], especially in municipalities that have a high mobility of citizens, raising the birth rate or repetition in certain educational divisions.
With “only” 4,000 teachers not joining their posts, the sector is not experiencing a teacher crisis; the Minister of Education confirmed a total of 104,000 teachers have been recruited in the last two years.
The minister chose to respond to her critics who have led a virulent campaign against her for a set of reforms that have not been popular. The most recent criticism came from the Association of Ulemas for her removal of the Islamic phrase of “in the name of God” in certain textbooks that are not linked to the Islamic sciences.
Benghabrit has accused critics of creating controversies to achieve electoral objectives. “We must stop making an ideological or political reading whenever we have an electoral timetable. Please, leave the school alone! The school needs everyone.”
Her reassurances are unlikely to help Algeria’s academics and teacher unions who have continued their protest outside the headquarters of the directorates of education in many states after they were forced to leave their posts despite reassurances in the clauses of their contracts.
Chanting slogans and carrying banners the teachers’ union condemned the disregard and exclusion they have received and demanded the education minister urgently intervene before they take their cases higher into the ministry.