TRIPOLI - Libya's internationally recognized government has stopped the salaries of over 150,000 teachers and other education ministry staff who do not have proper documents, the ministry said in an anti-corruption push that sparked protests.
Libya suffers from a bloated public service paying salaries to ghost workers who got on to the payroll during the chaos in the country since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The education ministry said in a statement late on Sunday that the affected staff had been receiving salaries without providing documents that prove they work in government offices.
More than 800 education administrative staff will also be questioned for violating laws such as being absent from work without permission, the ministry said.
Emad Badi, a researcher, said Libya had about 550,000 teachers for a country of 6 million people, which was not sustainable "to say the least".
The figures do not include teachers hired by an eastern parallel government opposing the Tripoli administration, part of a power struggle in the North African country.
Hundreds of teachers protested in the capital and other cities to demand the dismissal of the Tripoli-based education minister Othman Abduljaleel Mohamed.
"All the minister's decisions are random. He does not speak about our problems," said a high-school teacher from the western city of Zliten who was protesting.
"There are no curriculums and books available yet, schools are in bad condition and our salaries are always delayed," he said, asking not to be named. "And now the minister stops salaries of thousands but we're here until he's ousted."
Teachers have been on strike for weeks to demand salary increases, delaying the resumption of classes after the summer break. The new school year was due to start on Oct. 13.
Several schools in Tripoli have been closed to house families displaced by an offensive by eastern forces allied to a parallel government trying to take the capital since April.
Public salaries make up more than half of public spending, which depends on oil and gas revenues, the country's only economic resource. (Editing by Ulf Laessing and Ed Osmond)