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New School Year Begins on Schedule

The new school year began on schedule Sunday but only after a cliffhanger all-night negotiating session averted a threatened strike by teachers.

Representatives of the teachers union met with Education Minister Zevulun Hammer and officials of the Finance Ministry until 6 a.m. local time Sunday. Teachers and the country’s 1.3 million pupils learned only at 7 a.m. from radio news bulletins that classes would begin within the hour.

Under the agreement reached, teachers will receive advance payment equivalent to one quarter of their monthly salary, on account of the wage increases they have been demanding.

They agreed in return to withhold further strike action for four months and to continue talks with the government. According to a teachers union spokesman, their demands were not met but “at least the Finance Ministry agreed to discuss our claims, something it has refused to do until now.”

An additional 226,000 children will be entering the school system this year since a two-year kindergarten program has been made compulsory. About 89,000 youngsters will be attending first grade.

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