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Interview with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh; Interview with The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland Leader Naomi Long; Interview with "The Teachers" Author Alexandra Robbins. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 10, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello everyone and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
30 years since the Oslo Peace Accords for the Middle East, and yet it, is endless death amongst Palestinians and Israelis. As tensions continue to
grow, the Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, joins me for an exclusive interview.
Then, 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland, an imperfect peace does hold there. Naomi Long, leader of the centrist
alliance party joins me.
Also, ahead --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDRA ROBBINS, AUTHOR, "THE TEACHERS": Districts are not giving teachers what they need to supply their classrooms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: A year inside America's most vulnerable and important profession. Author Alexandra Robbins tells Hari Sreenivasan about the
challenges facing teachers.
Welcome to the program. Everyone I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Amid critical tension in the Middle East, Israel's far-right national security
minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has led thousands of settlers marching through the occupied West Bank to an illegal outpost. The Palestinian president's
office immediately condemned it as an invasion of settler militias, and there has been violence and injury. And it comes as both Israelis and
Palestinians are spending some of their holiest days, mourning and burying their children, this after a sudden surge in violence.
And it's a growing human toll as tensions continue to rise after the Israeli military raided the al-Aqsa Mosque last Tuesday. In addition, Iran
backed militias have exchanged fire with Israel from Syria to Lebanon to Gaza. And the United States has announced that it's deployed a guided
missile submarine to the region.
Joining me now on all of this for an exclusive interview is the Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Welcome, Prime Minister, from Ramallah.
MOHAMMAD SHTAYYEH, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER: Thank you so much for having me.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, can I ask you? In the end, it comes down to people and to death and to mourning and to the ongoing hopelessness.
We have a young 15-year-old Palestinian boy who's been shot and killed by security -- Israeli security forces. We also have the mother of two
sisters, Israeli British sisters. They were -- they were killed in a shoot- out, and now the mother has died of her injury -- injuries.
I want to know your feelings about all of this after all your years in power. But how is your government working with the Israeli government to
de-escalate tension and try to restore security?
SHTAYYEH: Well, by all means, occupation, in itself, is a source of all violence.
As we have seen it, it not only today, is not only yesterday, but every single day. This Israeli government, in particular, has adopted a special
policy that one can call shoot-to-kill policy. Since the beginning of the year, 96 Palestinians have been killed, a number of them, including this
morning. A 15-years-old boy has been killed, 75-years-old man has been killed, and all in between, men, women, young men, old men, and so on.
So, occupation is the source of every violence. Incursions into the mosque, incursions into refugee camps, house demolitions, colonization,
intensification of settlements, this sort of marching today with a number of ministers and Knesset members calling for colonization programs to be
intensified, land expropriation, all of this has been the main cause for all this wave of violence and wave of terrorist act that the Israeli army
has been -- adopted on the one hand.
And, on the other, you might -- you are 100 percent right that Ben-Gvir has been calling the Israelis to hold arms, has been calling settlers who are
already armed to really act immediately. This policy of shoot to kill has brought very dangerous consequences on the Palestinian on the one hand and
on the whole region on the other.
What we have seen in the mosque was totally unacceptable. People were praying at midnight, and the Israeli police incursed into the mosque,
raided the mosque, and they were hitting people, pulling women from their hair, and so on and so forth.
These acts, they have created incredible mood of anger among every Palestinian wherever they are, in Gaza, in Ramallah, in the West Bank, in
Lebanon and Syria.
So, there is a mood of anger that is there in the heart and the mind of every Palestinian.
AMANPOUR: Do you worry -- because I know some of your neighbors, some of your allies worry -- that if this does -- and we're just talking about the
Palestinian side right now -- you say a mood of anger, frustration, desperation.
If it does explode in a much more serious way, which many worry about, including on the Israeli side, that it could actually mean a huge risk to
the Palestinian Authority itself, that it might even be the end of the Palestinian Authority? Because you don't have control over all the people.
Even in your security forces, for instance, in Jenin and Nablus are not in security control there.
SHTAYYEH: You're right. The way one should look at it is the following. Two policemen cannot stand on one square meter. The Palestinian Authority
and the Palestinian police is there to defend the Palestinian people. This Palestinian Authority is not a security agent for Israel. And, therefore,
the Israeli incursions into the refugee camp of Jenin, of Nablus, and the Old City of Nablus and Hebron and everywhere, this is a total violation of
the Palestinian-Israeli agreement.
And you are right. Because of that, we have stopped all acts of security coordination between us, the Israelis, because it has proven to be useless
on the side of the Palestinians. And, also, Palestinians cannot continue to be in security terms, and they are not getting anything in political terms.
The issue for us is political, and not security. Israeli measures are based only on security measures. This will never bring peace to the Israelis.
What brings security is peace. And security does not bring peace. The Palestinians and the Israelis, we are, Palestinians, looking for end of the
occupation. We are not looking for living with occupation.
Palestinians don't want to see the occupying power. They don't want to see the occupying forces. They don't want to see settlers. They want to live
free, like any other people in the world, in the same way that we wanted the whole region to live in peace and dignity and so on.
AMANPOUR: And --
SHTAYYEH: So, you are right that the Israeli incursions into the Palestinian towns have made the Palestinian security forces' mission
AMANPOUR: But, listen --
SHTAYYEH: And that is why the Israelis, they continue to go into the cities. And this is by all means at a time when they say that they want to
empower the Palestinian Authority. On the other -- in real terms, they are actually destroying every foundation of the Palestinian Authority.
AMANPOUR: Do you find -- I'm going to get to the peace process and those hopes that you're talking about, occupation, deoccupation, et cetera.
But, first, there has to be a calming. So, many times when there's been terrible, terrible violence, your sides have spoken. I just want to know
whether you're engaged in any kind of effort between your authority and the Israelis to calm the current tensions and violence.
SHTAYYEH: United States has been playing an important role in bringing things together. And, as I said, the -- it's all in the hands of the
The Israelis are the ones who dictate the shots. The Israelis can make the situation of escalation and the Israelis can make the situation calm. All
what we have seen, the incursions into the mosque, into the refugee camps, the killing, house demolitions, land expropriation, this is a recipe for
disaster. This is a recipe for violence, when you have ministers calling for wiping out a whole town of Hawara, when you have ministers calling for
every Israeli to hold arms and shoot whenever needed and so on.
So, they're -- this Israeli government has changed the rules of engagement to make killing easier --
SHTAYYEH: -- and to make everything easier for the Israelis.
AMANPOUR: So, you're talking --
SHTAYYEH: We try to calm the situation as much as we can, but, as I said, the Palestinians are under occupation. We are victims. And it is all in the
hands of the Israelis. They are the ones who dictate the shots, and they are the ones who are calling the shots. They are the ones who can make
situation calm, and they are the ones who are responsible for any and every escalation.
AMANPOUR: I just want to ask you a follow-up on what you just said. You're talking about the minister by the name of Smotrich, who talked about wiping
out Hawara and then who also said there is no such thing as Palestinians. And you remember the inaccurate map that he showed on a trip to Paris.
But, also, Ben-Gvir, who's just been given by Prime Minister Netanyahu, I guess as a way to soften the issue of halting the judicial reform, this new
portfolio of so-called a National Guard, what effect will that have on the Palestinian side?
SHTAYYEH: If Minister Smotrich have said what he said in any democratic state, he could have been put in jail by now. To say that Palestinians
don't exist, this is a wishful thinking for the classical Zionists saying that Palestine is a land without people, for people without a land. We have
known this. We have seen it.
But I think that for him also to say that he wanted to wipe Hawara, this is an expression of expansionist mentality that the main parties, the main
coalition of this Israeli government has a special political program designed based on expansionism, because for them to show a map for all of
historical Palestine, including Jordan, that is what they call here is Israel.
This is a reflection of a colonial expansionist mentality. For Ben-Gvir to -- given the permission to form a militia, I think this is, again, a recipe
for disaster, because for whom is this militia? This militia has been designed for men, for more killing against Palestinians, for more killing
of Palestinians, whether inside Israel or of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
This is a situation in which every Israeli will be holding arm, every Israeli is a soldier, and the Israelis are now adopting new rules of
engagement that will cause a lot of bloodshed for the Palestinians. So we will pay a heavy price. This militia that has been formed by Ben-Gvir is a
compromise between Netanyahu and himself.
And this compromise, who will pay the price? It is we. But I think this is something that should not be allowed. This is something that is not only
designed to kill Palestinians, but, again, it will be additional source of escalation, again, in the hands of the Israelis and by the Israelis
AMANPOUR: So, listen, you're prime minister of several million people who have lived in the occupied territories and also, obviously, in Gaza,
although, I know your power does not reach there.
However, you have not had elections since 2005 for the presidency and since 2006 for the legislature. And so, I assume Palestinians are watching the
Israeli people march in the streets to try to protect and defend their own democracy. And, certainly, separate from that, they are complaining, and
loudly, to pollsters about the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, about the fact that you do not meet their economic and genuine human rights
and human needs, and that there just haven't been any elections.
How long can you continue like this and remain a credible leadership?
SHTAYYEH: Well, look, the Palestinians have been calling for elections. Our president issued presidential decree calling for elections on the 22 of
It is a pity that Israel has had five elections in four years and using a veto against our election. Palestinians are ready for elections. We wanted
elections. We wanted a renewal in the political system and so on. But the Israelis are denying the Palestinians the right to have elections in all of
We cannot have elections in one part of Palestine, and not the other, simply because Israel is saying that Jerusalem, where 380,000 Palestinians
live in the vicinity of Jerusalem, in the city of Jerusalem and all the surrounding, and the Israelis don't want to give these people the right to
vote and to be candidates.
When we had candidates, our candidates were arrested. When we wanted to send the Central Election Commission chairman to sit polling stations, the
Israelis told us that, don't send him, because, if you do, send two lawyers with him. We are going to put him in jail.
So, it is not that we are refraining from our democratic rights. We fight for our democratic rights. We fight for elections. And when we, the
Palestinians, we went to Aqaba, one important issue was that to oblige the Israelis to respect the signed agreements between us and them, on top of
which a main chapter in the signed agreement has to do with elections.
And you are right. Palestinians, we have had elections in '96. Our people in Jerusalem did participate in these elections, in 2005, in 2006 and in
every elections. Recently, we had local government elections. We had Chamber of Commerce elections. We had student union elections.
Wherever it is possible, we are having elections. And we want to have elections in all of Palestine, including Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the
Palestinians were put in a situation in which damned if you do and damned if you don't. We were -- we had to choose between elections and Jerusalem.
Every Palestinian, we did choose Jerusalem and we did postpone elections until it becomes possible.
And that is -- and, here, I take the opportunity to call upon European Union, United States to really exert every pressure on the Israelis to
allow the Palestinians to have their own elections for the presidency, for the Parliament, and for the municipality of Jerusalem.
So, this is not something, Christiane, that we are shining our faces away. On the contrary, election and democracy for us is existential issue for the
political system, for the political leadership, for the government, for the president, for all of us.
AMANPOUR: In the meantime, you know, there are many other commentaries about that, that there just has not been, you know, the effort to get these
elections. You even had an Algiers deal with -- let me just see -- with some -- with your other -- you know, with your other -- you had a deal in
Algiers saying that there's going to be an election with Hamas within a year. We're now six months in.
In any event, I want to move on, because I want to ask you, finally, there is a -- seems to be a shifting public perception, particularly amongst
Democratic -- the Democrats in the United States, to slightly more sympathy towards the Palestinians. It's sort of narrowing the affection gap, if you
like, between Palestinians and Israelis for the Americans.
Can this be a source of, I don't know, political solution, in terms of trying to get the international community to focus on this issue more and
to try to see whether there's any route for any kind of peace? Because you just talked about the two-state solution. Nobody seems to think it has any
hope anymore, even on your side.
SHTAYYEH: Well, you know, we received President Biden here in Palestine. He was in Bethlehem. He did meet with our president.
President Biden spoke explicitly and loudly for two states on the border of 1967. We appreciated that. The question for us and him and all, what is it
that we should do to preserve the two-state solution at a time when Israel is systematically destroying the two-state solution and Israel is
systematically destroying a future possibility of a Palestinian state?
Today, there are 750,000 Israeli settlers in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. This Israeli government is eroding '67 borders. It's very
unfortunately that United States, whom we had a lot of hopes for this administration that they will move things forward, until now, we did not
see, we did not receive, we did not have a peace initiative from United States.
The Quartet that used to have the United States, United Nations, Russia and European Union is not anymore functioning. So, there is a serious political
vacuum, and we need to fill this political vacuum with a serious peace initiative.
United States did not come up with an initiative yet. United States did not appoint a peace envoy yet. And we are hopeful that this exercise and this
peace process will be back on track.
SHTAYYEH: Our problem today is that we don't have a partner in Israel, and we don't have an honest broker. And we -- the international political arena
has been very crowded for so many events and so on.
But, still, every single day, events have proven that Palestine is the center of the Middle East conflict. Today, we have Saudi Arabia is in a
compromising mood with Iran and so on.
SHTAYYEH: The whole region is changing.
And I think there is a lot of room for international -- with your other -- intervention.
SHTAYYEH: And I think there is a room for a third-party intervention. We need somebody to take things forward. It's a pity, as I said, there is no
partner in Israel.
AMANPOUR: All right.
SHTAYYEH: This Israeli government is not about peace. This Israeli government is about colonization, settlement, killing, house demolitions,
and so on and so forth.
And you are right.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister --
SHTAYYEH: Two-state solution is in danger. It is in danger.
SHTAYYEH: It -- everybody today agrees politically on two states, but, on the ground, tomorrow is going to be too late.
AMANPOUR: Tragically, the one thing both sides agree with is on, say publicly, that they have no partner for peace. We will see if that changes.
Prime Minister Shtayyeh, thank you so much, indeed.
Next to a peace deal that did have a huge amount of support from the United States and has held for a quarter of a century. Today marks the 25th
anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the landmark peace accords between Northern Ireland's religious factions as well as between the
British and Irish governments, or shepherded by the U.S. and the Clinton administration.
Take a listen to what then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said about the deal 25 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, THEN-BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I said when I arrived here on Wednesday night that I felt the hand of history upon us. Today, I hope that
the burden of history cannot long last start to be lifted from our shoulders. It will take more of the courage we have shown, but it need not
mean more of the pain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And that pain was reflected in our reporting back then, the bitter and divided process, but also, the courage, also, the genuine sense
of hope as I found a month later when people voted to approve that peace deal in a referendum.
Here's my report from back then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Nationalist politicians celebrate a historic victory in a referendum designed to overcome decades of division, violence,
A referendum designed to put Northern Ireland's affairs in the hands of all its people.
GERRY ADAMS, THEN-SINN FEIN LEADER: The task now is to manage that changes, to get the mechanisms for change to deliver on equality on justice
and all of the other matters, which are required if we are to have a peace settlement.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Protestant unionist politicians celebrate too, those who campaigned so hard for the referendum and saw this fight cause a bitter
split within their own ranks.
KEN MAGINNIS, THEN-ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY MP: We will do our best to implementing the letter that which was expressed in spirit today by the
voters of Northern Ireland.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): But the vote won't silence the no's who despise this deal.
ROBERT MCCARTNEY, THEN-U.K. UNIONIST PARTY LEADER: It will put the delegates of armed terror in government. It will permit those terrorists
who retain all their weaponry. And it will release back onto the streets, some of the most savage and homicidal maniacs that have ever been put in
AMANPOUR (voiceover): They vowed to win seats in the new assembly and use their veto. But Mo Mowlam, the British minister in charge of Northern
Ireland, called on the no's to respect the will of the people.
MO MOWLAM, THEN-NORTHERN IRELAND SECRETARY: All I've heard is them saying they want to replay. I've never heard a replay when it's three to one. And
that's what it is. So, I hope that they acknowledge what the majority of people have said and build for the future.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): More people voted in Northern Ireland than at any time in living memory, and as the significance of what they have done sinks
in, many say they have waited too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (on camera): Of course, President Joe Biden will visit Northern Ireland tomorrow, along with the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, to
celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
But of course, there are still pressing challenges, not least the democratic process itself with no functioning government there for over a
Joining me now on this is Naomi Long, she's head of the Centrist Alliance Party. Naomi Long, welcome from Belfast.
NAOMI LONG, LEADER, THE ALLIANCE PARTY OF NORTHERN IRELAND: Good afternoon.
AMANPOUR: I don't know whether you heard that report from 25 years ago, but it was really something to be reacquainted with the feelings, the depth
of the feelings back then, both bit of scared and also hopeful.
Do you recall that moment? What were you doing then and how do you feel 25 years later?
LONG: Well, very much so. I was -- I mean, I wasn't in politics actively then. I was a member of the party. But I didn't stand for election actually
until 2001. But I recall very vividly the emotions that were attached to the Good Friday Agreement. I was a child of The Troubles. The whole
backdrop of my growing up and of my life had been The Troubles.
And so, for me the first -- I suppose the first tentative opportunity that we had to really see transformation was in 1994 when we had the first days
fires that eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement and everything that's flowed from it. And there was a huge amount of optimism at that time
where people really believe that this was a chance in a generation to bring the bloodshed to an end, to be able to find an honest and just
accommodation between people on this island between these islands, and particularly within Northern Ireland, and to be able to govern ourselves as
a people, which is hugely important.
So, I remember very vividly voting for the agreement. And I didn't do it lightly, because what we heard from those detractors from the agreement was
true, it required us to reach out to those who had previously been involved in violence, it included allowing people who have been convicted of heinous
crimes to walk free, albeit on license. But to walk free from prison, and that was a hugely difficult decision morally and a hugely difficult
decision in terms of the sensitivities for victims, and I was very conscious of that when I voted.
But for me, the best way I could honor those who had lost their lives and their loved ones during The Troubles was to work as an individual and as a
politician to ensure that we would not enter another cycle of that violence, and I believe that the Good Friday Agreement was the basis on
which we could start to move forward.
AMANPOUR: You know, you talk about The Troubles, of course, that's what it was sort of euphemistically called for all those 30 plus years, some
3,500people were killed and obviously, so many more injured and families and lives and communities ripped apart.
I am staggered to report what you know very well, and that is your democratic process seems to be stalled and in jeopardy. It's just really
difficult to understand how one party or one group can veto government and therefore, cause it to come to a grinding hold. And your country, your
province, your area is now still, again, run, managed by Britain. That was completely what was not meant to happen.
LONG: Well, precisely. And the Good Friday Agreement have talked about the opportunities that it presented, but not all of those opportunities have
been realized in terms of reconciliation between our people. I think much more effort needs to be put into that. We still live in an incredibly
divided, deeply and profoundly divided society.
It is starting to change the growth of my own party, and recent elections have shown that people are no longer so divided between orange and green.
There are other views on the situation here, people are drawn to that.
But also, whilst it was good in principle, that the kind of principles around the Good Friday Agreement, that they were good foundation on which
to build, the institutional structures, if anything, compounded our division and that they handed unionism and nationalism, these exclusive
vetoes that they could use against each other. And we have now tested our institutions to destruction.
And so, I think 25 years on with the change that we have seen in society, our focus now has to be the next 25 years. We have a much more fluid sense
of identity in Northern Ireland. People are much more confident about exploring that, much happier to vote for parties that don't vote along
And so, we need to find an accommodation that allows those people's voices to contribute because, you know, 72 percent of assembly members voted to
elect a new speaker, and it wasn't enough. Yet, 71 percent of Northern Ireland electorate voting for the Good Friday Agreement was enough.
LONG: Now, there's something fundamentally wrong with the structures which we now need to change, not to strip away protections, because those are
important, but to prevent people being able to destabilize our institutions. Because, ultimately, people in Northern Ireland need good
government, whether they're unionist, nationalist or neither.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And you don't identify as either or you're a neither. We described you as the Centrist Alliance Party, and you made a huge number of
gains, right, in the last elections last year. You gained eight seats.
So, you've just said what you hope will happen that this veto, that was baked in 25 years ago, can end and make this fit for purpose again. Can --
I mean, you've got the votes, you've got people, you've got young people presumably, how difficult do you think that's going to be to change this
LONG: Well, look, we have changed the Good Friday Agreement over the last 25 years, sometimes in ways that were responding to some of this ransom
politics where people either threatened, collapse the institutions or actually collapse the institutions to make demands before they go back in.
But often, those changes haven't been to the betterment of the agreement and the stability of the institutions. I'm not in that kind of politics.
I'm not into destructive politics. I'm not into the politics of veto.
What I want is cooperation and collaboration across communities. And so, we have come up with proposals that we believe would stabilize the assembly,
allow us to have government and to work through our problems as part of that assembly rather than simply walk away and throw in the towel when
things get difficult, which is what happens now.
And so, we need to work, I think, with the two governments. I think we also need to include the U.S. government who have been so hugely influential in
terms of bringing people together and creating that opportunity for us to have discussions about these issues and get the parties together.
The two largest parties will never give up their veto. That is their part. But we need to recognize that the people who own the agreement are not the
two biggest parties, they are the people of Northern Ireland, they are the people of Ireland, north and south, and the people of Northern Ireland
deserved stable government. They don't get that at the moment with these vetoes. And what we want to see are changes, evolutions of the structures
that will allow us to provide for the next 25 years of stability, whatever the future holds that we can actually have government consistently year on
40 percent of the time since the Good Friday Agreement has -- was signed, we have had no government in Northern Ireland. That wouldn't be acceptable
to your listeners. It's certainly isn't acceptable to our electorate.
AMANPOUR: Yes, exactly. And I was going to ask you because you also mention the United States. You know, of course, that the president,
President Biden will be there, plus, the British prime minister.
But in the meantime, President Clinton, under whose administration, the U.S. helped make this happen has written in the "Washington Post," he said,
the events that led to peace in Northern Ireland were a happy occasion of hope and history rhyming, but such achievements are still too rare. All
around the world in areas of conflict and deep political and social divisions, people a year yearning for better, safer, more inclusive days
ahead. The challenge will be finding the leaders with the courage to meet the moment and make the hard choices necessary for peace within frameworks
that give everyone a voice.
I guess he's talking to people like you, Naomi Long.
LONG: Absolutely. And I think people in other parts of the world still look to Northern Ireland despite the flaws and the Good Friday Agreement
and the process that has flowed from it, because it is one of the most enduring peace deals that has ever been done.
It has brought relative peace to Northern Ireland. I mean, it's sad that today I talk to you against a backdrop, first of all, of us not having
institutions. And secondly, of rioting, mainly of young people who were born after the Good Friday Agreement, attacking our fully reformed police
service on the streets of very today. That to me shows that we still have a long way to go in in terms of reconciliation and building for the future.
But we now have an opportunity that we didn't have 25 years ago, to do that in spaces which are peaceful, we can engage with each other across the
community. We're able to grow a party across the community that has gone from having six seats in 1990 out of 108 to 17 seats out of 90 last year.
So, we have seen the growth and the appetite for that change. But there's still much, much more we can do. And it does require political leadership,
and it does require courage because every decision that you take along the way, someone will criticize you and say, well, you're taking their side and
not mine. We still have this culture of them versus us, and I want to talk to people more about the fact that we need to create win, win scenarios
where the whole community can benefit and where no one feels that they're being alienated or that they're being ignored.
And that takes creativity, but it also takes a little bit of bravery because there will always be those who say no to everything. And at some
stage, we have to be willing politically to face those people going.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And I wanted to ask you about a United Ireland, and maybe you don't want to think about this. But the facts remain that Sinn Fein is
now the biggest party in Northern Ireland. Catholics outnumbering protestants for the first time. And apparently, it could also gain power in
the republic. They, of course, want a United Ireland.
Do you believe that that's in the cards, on the books, a possibility that you might have to get used to this evolution, or is that just not something
that it could happen?
LONG: Well, I think the first thing is that catholic and protestant are broad terms, but they don't fully reflect our politics. There are a small
number of Catholics who would be unionist, a small number of protestants who would be nationalists. And there are people in my own party who don't
identify as Christian at all. They identify its protestant catholic. They might have a whole range of views.
But, look, basically, our identity here is multilayered. I am both British and Irish. Northern Ireland is the place I call home. And irrespective of
its constitutional future, it will remain the place I call home. So, I will take part without prejudice in any conversations around how United Ireland
might operate, what it would look like, how it would be shaped, and I will engage in those conversations without prejudice.
But I am a pragmatic politician and I base my decisions on evidence. And so, what I will want to do is at the point where we have a referendum, and
so, far the test for that has not been met because while Sinn Fein is the largest party, unionism nor nationalism are a majority in our society.
Alliance actually holds the balance apart.
So, we're in a situation where we are now all minorities. And I think there's an opportunity in that space for people no longer to feel
threatened by these conversations, no longer do feel threatened by their opponents. We are all in the same book. We are all minorities. We all
belong here. And I mean, in the words of Martin Luther King, he said that we either learn to live together as brothers or we perish together as
fools. And I think for us in Northern Ireland, we need to learn that lesson.
We have an opportunity. We've had it for the last 25 years. I don't want just to squander another minute of it. To be able to learn to live together
as brothers, to be able to unite community in Northern Ireland. And then, whether we're part of the United Kingdom or United Ireland, we're a united
community and can contribute positively and irrespective of the constitutional situation.
AMANPOUR: It's really remarkable. It's great to speak to you as the third largest party and very different in terms of what we've heard from the
others. And, of course, so many young people have so much vested in a successful future. So, we wish all of you good luck on this 25th
LONG: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Turning to the teacher crisis facing America now. Staffing shortages, burnout, funding cuts and the debates over the curriculum are
putting pressure on education, not to mention school shootings. In her new book, best-selling author Alexandra Robbins, followed three teachers to see
how these issues are changing the way they work. And she joins Hari Sreenivasan now to discuss the state of teaching in the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alexandra Robbins. Thanks so much for joining us.
You know, in the past few weeks, we have seen headlines from the biggest school systems in the country, both in Los Angeles and in New York about
strikes, about retirement pensions. It seems that the entire system is going through some big changes. And at the core of a lot of these concerns
are whether or not there are enough teachers to do the job. What's happening?
ALEXANDRA ROBBINS, AUTHOR, "THE TEACHERS": What's happening is that teachers aren't being treated properly. You know, they say there's a
teacher shortage, that that's a popular term, but it's very misleading.
There is no teacher shortage. There is no shortage of people who are wonderful, qualified, willing educators. There is a shortage of teaching
jobs that adequately treats, compensates and respect skilled professionals such as they would want to be teachers in the first place. That's not a
shortage of people, that's a shortage of support.
SREENIVASAN: So, give me an example here. How much is the average teacher making? What's the -- what we think of as a pay gap, if they could go out
and -- with the same level of education, get a different type of job, how much more or less are they making as a teacher?
ROBBINS: Well, it depends where you go. It depends on the district. It depends on the states. But I'll give you an example. One of the three
teachers I followed for a year for my book, Penny, had 18 years of experience. She was a veteran teacher, award-winning teacher. And after 18
years, she was making $47,000 a year. That's a problem.
She has to work extra jobs in order to afford to keep being a teacher. That's something that 70 percent of educators have had to do. They've had
to work an extra job or two or sometimes three, if you count summer jobs too, just to be able to afford -- to continue teaching our children.
SREENIVASAN: So, what are you talking about here, driving Ubers on the side?
ROBBINS: Yes. Actually, there is a teacher I spoke with in Texas who is just petrified that at some point, he's going to accidentally be called to
pick up one of his students because he doesn't want them to know.
Yes, Uber driving, retail, farming hay, dog walking, tutoring, a lot of waitressing, bartending, selling their blood, just anything they can do
just to be able to continue to afford to fulfill a role that's arguably society's most important role.
SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about the three teachers that you followed for the year. How did you pick them and what kinds of positions
are they in?
ROBBINS: Well, I followed Penny, who is a middle school math teacher in the south. Miguel, a special ed teacher out west. And Rebecca, an east
coast elementary school teacher. So, people could sort of see these perspectives behind the scenes through their stories and secrets and learn
what school is really like from the inside.
I chose them because their stories were both relatable and interesting, and because I thought that people would love them as main characters, and enjoy
the read with them.
SREENIVASAN: What was fascinating to me was some of the parents during the kind of open house, and one of them had a sense of entitlement that, you
know what, I'm not going to bring or pay you anything for school supplies, because, guess what, I pay my taxes. I pay your salary and you should be
doing all that.
Give us an idea of how much or how often teachers are going into their own pockets to make the school system whole.
ROBBINS: 94 percent of teachers pay out of their own pockets for classroom supplies. They pay an average of $500. Penny, one year, paid $2,000 of her
own money because there was so much she needed for her math class or math manipulative and so forth. Districts are not giving teachers what they need
to supply their classrooms.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that you illustrate so clearly is the amount of time that teachers spend that the rest of us, non-teachers, might
think it's free time but really isn't, from the summer to even a single day.
ROBBINS: Yes. First of all, teachers aren't paid during the summer, which is why so many of them have to take on a summer job to make ends meet.
However, they're still doing teaching activities during the summer, whether they're doing continuing education so they can retain their certification
or doing professional development or prepping lessons for the following year. Districts tend to change their curriculum pretty often, and then,
that starts everything over again. If a teacher is involuntarily transferred to a new grade or subject, then they have a whole lot to catch
up on over the summer.
And that's just summer. During the year, teachers are working so much more often than people realize, the job is impossible to handle during a school
day. Teachers maybe have one 50-minute prep time/planning time if they're lucky, maybe a 20 to 30-minute lunch. That's not enough time to grade,
prep, do all the parent calls that administrators are now putting on teachers' shoulders. It's too much.
Middle and high school teachers, people don't realize, can have 180 students easily, OK? I talked to a teacher in Utah, a high school English
teacher, who had 263 students. Can you imagine grading, refining the writing of and correcting essays for 263 students every single time you
give them an assignment? He cannot accomplish that in 50 minutes during the school day.
SREENIVASAN: The special ed teacher that you profile in here whose name you're using as Miguel. Also, what's interesting to me was how just
overwhelmingly taxed his schedule seemed, how many different types of classes that he was teaching. And, you know, I mean, just reading it gave
me stress and exhaustion, and you talk about basically that he's also facing a little bit of a burnout and a change of heart for this profession.
ROBBINS: Yes. That's one thing I followed his story through during the -- or the beginning of the year. He was thinking this was his last year. He
couldn't take it anymore. So, we follow him to see what happens.
However, the phrase teacher burnout, it's such a popular phrase that Miriam Webster Dictionary describes for its featured contextual examples for
burnout, both of its two examples are about teachers. However, it's a misleading phrase. And here's why. Experts say that teacher burnout is due
to unmanageable workload, high stakes testing, pressure at work, not enough resources at work.
But instead of actually fixing these issues, like any normal workplace you'd think would do, schools instead tell teachers to relax, do a better
job of self-care, that's a common buzzword among districts, as if it's -- the burden is on the teachers to go pay for a massage or something to
alleviate the stress called but -- caused by a job that's impossible to do.
So, I think instead of saying teacher burnout, we need to come up with something else, teacher demoralization maybe, because the burnout is not on
the teachers. This is not the teacher's fault. Instead of saying teachers have the highest levels of burnout, we need to say no, school systems are
the employers worst at providing necessary supports and resources to their employees.
SREENIVASAN: You also mentioned a shortage of substitute teachers, which I didn't really think about because I just assumed that the market sort of
goes up and down when there are shortage of teachers and so forth. You even became one and that turned into a longer-term engagement. Tell us about
ROBBINS: Yes. I wasn't expecting that. A couple of days before the August open house last year, a school allotted a new class but had no teacher. I
had short-term stuff at that school before, so they asked me to fill it, and I did. And to everybody's surprise, they didn't hire someone until
after winter break. So, I was a full-time third grade teacher for that semester.
And I'll give you -- and first of all, I loved it. Substitute teaching for me was a gift. I loved being with the students. I loved learning what it
was like to connect with students and to see their exhilaration when a science project works or they finally understand a math concept. But I can
tell you now why there aren't so many substitute teachers and why there's a problem finding them.
Last school year, I worked in school subbing for more than 150 days out of 180. My paycheck for the entire year, including retention bonuses,
including the COVID sub race, because it was very hard to find subs when there weren't vaccines for elementary schools especially, including all the
little snippets they tried to throw in, my paycheck for the entire year, including almost a semester as a full-time teacher was $17,630.28 with no
health insurance or any other benefits. That's a problem.
You know, an administrator told teachers last year, near where I live, it's really hard to find long-term subs. So, I need you to not get really sick
or pregnant this year. And the problem with that is if a district can't find enough subs, the fault and responsibility lie not with teachers for
needing one but with the district for not making the job doable.
SREENIVASAN: How much of the stress on teachers right now is coming from an increasingly political climate of what is taught in the classroom and
how -- depending on the community, how mobilized parents are to get involved in this?
Because on the one hand, you -- you know, every child succeeds if their parent is involved. We know that that's true. But the ways that parents are
now kind of attacking school boards and districts about curriculum seems very different, and you'd want all those parents engaged, but maybe not
exactly in this way.
ROBBINS: Yes. You know, educators are the only skilled professionals trained and certified to develop and deliver aged appropriate lessons to
students, not parents who think they know about schools just because they went to school and not politicians who have never taught in a public-school
classroom. So, there is a line between involved and over involved.
And many of the teachers leaving classrooms today are not leaving because of their students. They told me over and over again, it's so hard to leave
teaching because you love your students, but they told me -- teachers all over the country told me, we are tired of the adults.
SREENIVASAN: Is there an increasing amount of politics that is coming into the classroom?
ROBBINS: Yes. We're seeing a dangerous step nationally that we've seen in some states leads to politicians and parents pushing to remove from schools
books, school materials and discussions involving race, LGBTQ identities and racism in American history.
Republicans are pushing these prejudicial measures under the banner of parents' rights, but which parents? Their messages of exclusion and the
bigotry cater to only a certain small fringe of parents, but every child deserves to feel safe, comfortable and represented, at school, in the
classroom, in the bathroom and in important sometimes lifesaving conversations with trusted adults like teachers and guidance counselors.
SREENIVASAN: So, if there are these forces at play here, whether it's a push to privatize, whether it's called increased parental rights, or the
decrease in teacher's salaries, what is the sort of net cost to a generation of students?
ROBBINS: Well, their education is going to take if we don't have enough teachers in the classrooms, and I think people are starting to see that. A
lot of long-term subs, if they -- if schools can even manage to get the long-term subs are in the classroom. Some classes are empty.
Penny had to double up her class often. She had some of -- the teacher in the south, whom I'm followed for the book, she often had to combine other
classes with her own because the classes didn't have enough coverage. And we're going to see more of that if we don't turn this ship around quickly.
SREENIVASAN: One of the things that I don't think many people realize is just the general racial composition of what public education is in America
today, and I wonder how you see this conversation about how to educate students about race and culture in America, because you have a lot of
parents who are saying, hey, look, I don't want you to make my child feel shamed for something that their ancestors might have participated in.
And at the same time, you look at the composition of the classroom and you're like, well, shouldn't the children who are living in America today
also have an understanding of what happened the past?
ROBBINS: Yes. Of course. Yes, I agree with that. Every child should feel represented in the classroom. How are we going to stop bigotry if children
don't learn what it is? How will we promote inclusion if students don't learn that not every family looks like theirs?
The majority of public-school students in this country are students of color, and we need to make sure that they feel like they are getting the
same education as everybody else, like their history is represented and like their culture is represented.
SREENIVASAN: What is the fix then? I mean, is there a correlation between paying more for teachers and student outcomes? I mean, because there's so
much of our system that is trying to be designed towards outcomes based on the research and based on what's working in school districts and the
teachers that you've spoken with, what does work?
ROBBINS: Yes. Studies show that students' test scores in math and English do raise significantly in districts that give teachers higher base
salaries. There's a clear correlation. So, yes, number one, pay.
But even more than that, the majority of parents in this country do not want the culture wars in their schools. They want everybody to be taught
history as it happened. It's just a small subset of parents and politicians who were -- just happened to be very loud. So, now is the time that those
of us who are educator allies need to stand up for teachers, speak up for them and show up to board meetings to lobby for what they need.
SREENIVASAN: A lot of challenges we're facing the education system pre pandemic. I mean, what happened after, do you think, that kind of fired up
so many parents into the culture wars and added these kinds of new stresses and what's the long-term consequence?
ROBBINS: I - OK. So, to get a little bit into the politics, parents became upset that they said schools were closed. OK. Schools were not closed. They
were open. They were just virtual in some cases. And I do want to say that teachers wanted to be in person too, but only if it was safe. And at that
time, before vaccines, before we knew anything about COVID. nobody knew if it was safe or not to be in school.
However, teachers ended up working a lot longer days trying to transfer their lessons to virtual materials and online platforms, than they would
have had they been in school. With that said, parents who were upset that their children were in their own house instead of an a building started
being vocal, and then they started being about vocal about the masks.
Glenn Youngkin used parents' rights as the central part of his campaign over in Virginia. And when Republicans saw that his campaign worked, I
think they all started jumping on the bandwagon. In the first part of, I believe it was 2022, there were more than 100 bills proposed just in the
first six weeks of the year to start meddling in schools and censoring discussions and have more parental control over items that may involve race
or LGBTQ identities.
So, I think Republicans kind of pounced on this as something that might work in their campaigns. They galvanized parents by weaponizing the term
CRT, Critical Race Theory, is not taught in K through 12 schools, but Republicans started using it as a way to refer to any oppression or talk of
racism in American history. They used this, this umbrella term to sort of rile up parents, and it worked. Those parents are now fighting for
something that actually is not going to help students.
However, if you look at the surveys, most parents of school age children do not want the culture wars in their schools. And, in fact, the parent -- the
people who are more likely to say that they are upset with their local schools are actually parents who don't even have school aged children. So,
this has become a political thing rather than an education thing.
SREENIVASAN: The book is called "The Teachers: A Year Inside America's Most Vulnerable, Important Profession." Alexandra Robbins, thanks so much
for joining us.
ROBBINS: Thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And finally, tonight, tears of joy as months of separation come to an end. 31 Ukrainian children are back in the arms of their parents and
siblings and other family members more than six months after being sent to Russia.
The International Criminal Court, of course, has indicted President Putin and a key minister for illegally deporting Ukrainian children from areas
under Russian occupation. Kyiv believes tens of thousands of them have been kidnapped. Russia denies any wrongdoing.
And here is the moment one Ukrainian mother holds her 13-year-old son in her arms again for the first time since they were separated. A group of
these mothers have embarked on several perilous journeys to find their children and bring them home, assisted by the Save Ukraine organization,
which is determined to make this happen for more families and to deliver more scenes of jubilation in this cruel war.
That's it for now. If you ever miss our show, you can find the latest episode shortly after it airs on our podcast. On your screen now is a QR
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Thank you for watching and good-bye from London.