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BURUNDI: Schools reopen as teachers suspend strike
Bujumbura, 15 March 2004 (IRIN) - Secondary and primary schools across Burundi reopened on Monday after teachers suspended a strike that began on 5 January.
"We accepted to return to work for the love of Burundi's children, we wanted to prove our goodwill unlike the government which, instead of resolving teachers' problem, complicates it," Philbert Ngenzahayo, a representative of the National Council of Secondary Education Staff, said on Monday.
However, he said the teachers would resume the strike if the government refused to accede to their demands for better wages and housing allowances.
"We want to take the whole nation, parents and children as witnesses, to understand that if the strike is resumed it will have been due to the unwillingness of the government," he said.
The cash-strapped government had promised salary increases. Ngenzahayo said the government must pay salaries for the period the teachers were on strike if another stoppage was to be averted.
On Tuesday, gendarmes arrested two leaders of the two main teachers' unions but released them after several hours.
The representative of the Union of Burundi Educational Workers, Eulalie Nibizi, and the leader of the Free Union of Burundi Education, Adolphe Wakana, were arrested after they held a meeting with striking teachers in the capital, Bujumbura, to evaluate the stoppage. The arrests followed a meeting on Tuesday with parents, senior officials of the Ministry of Education and student representatives, during which President Domitien Ndayizeye ordered security forces to take action.
On 9 February, some 15,000 primary school teachers joined their 5,000 striking secondary school colleagues, putting at least one million children out of school countrywide.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]