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  • Colombian teachers protest, demanding better salaries and working conditions, in Bogota, Colombia, June 13, 2017.

    Colombian teachers protest, demanding better salaries and working conditions, in Bogota, Colombia, June 13, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

The country has been awash in social struggle in recent weeks as the government has scrambled to meet the demands of social movements and unions.

Following a 37-day struggle to improve public education in Colombia that involved daily marches, militant tactics and nationwide coordinated actions, the Colombian government agreed to meet some of the terms of the combative teachers of the Colombian Federation of Education Workers union, or Fecode.

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The union had demanded school maintenance funding, supplies, student meals and dignified salaries, complaining that education improvements promised by President Juan Manuel Santos be fulfilled. Teachers were also aggrieved by poor salaries, in some cases as low as US$610 per month, a pittance for education workers requiring thorough and expensive training at institutions of higher education.

"The president said the money that went to the war would go to education but now there's no FARC, no guns and we don't see the funds," said high school teacher Jose Escobar, 36, earlier on Friday during a protest in Bogota's main square.

Last year, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC reached a peace deal with the Santos government ending 52 years of bitter armed struggle and harsh counter-insurgency, but promises to combat inequality and usher in a new period of social justice have fallen painfully short of the government's stated goals.

However, the Fecode union, which represents over 350,000 teachers, agreed to reach a deal with the government following a meeting with Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas. The government pledged to improve salaries through progressive bonus payments and union input on the determination of budgeting plans, according to Education Minister Yaneth Ghia.

"The government's priority was always to reach an agreement that recognizes the work of teachers and the indispensable role of education in the development of the country and, at the same time, be responsible with public finances," Ghia told members of the press.

In locations throughout the country such as Bogota, schools aren't even able to accommodate the amount of students requiring education, instead forcing thousands of students to attend half-day sessions lasting only six hours.

However, the Friday accord will see the government attempt to implement full-day study.

The country has been awash in social struggle in recent weeks as the government has scrambled to meet the demands of protesters in the port city of Buenaventura and public workers.

"If the government truly is working for peace, they need to start here," said Adriana Tunjo, a fifth-grade teacher in southern Bogota, who like other protesters decried problems which included electricity outages and sporadic provision of meals.

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