50,000 teachers go on strike in New Zealand, more than half of public schools shut

Teachers and students take part in a strike over a running pay dispute with the government ahead of the government's annual budget at Parliament, in Wellington, New Zealand, on May 29, 2019.
Teachers and students take part in a strike over a running pay dispute with the government ahead of the government's annual budget at Parliament, in Wellington, New Zealand, on May 29, 2019.PHOTO: DPA

WELLINGTON (AFP) - More than half of New Zealand's public schools closed their doors on Wednesday (May 29) amid a mass walkout by teachers over pay and conditions.

The ministry of education estimated that almost 60 per cent of schools were closed as some 50,000 teachers staged a "mega-strike".

"We didn't want to be on strike, but we did it for the future of education in Aotearoa (New Zealand)," the country's largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, said in a statement.

"We hope the government heard us - they must take bold and urgent action to fix this."

With an estimated half a million students affected, parents rallied to make alternate plans as teachers gathered for the latest in a series of protests, this on the eve of the government's annual Budget release.

The educators are asking for better overall pay and warning that burnout means many leave the profession just years after starting their career.