Thousands of teachers took to the streets Monday to protest an educational bill currently going through congress, launching an indefinite strike called Sunday by the union Teachers’ College.
Jaime Gajardo, president of the union, said teachers would hold meetings various times a day during their indefinite strike to explain the movement to the community.
Teachers are demanding changes to key aspects of the bill. They are opposed to the implementation of certification exams and are demanding better salaries and working conditions.
Secondary students, who marched last week for a free quality education and to protest police violence, have supported the strike and will join in another march Wednesday.
The project, pushed forward by President Michelle Bachelet, has been met with strong resistance from education workers in Chile, who feel they have not been consulted and listened to in the elaboration of this bill.
The following tweet reads “Without teachers no reform.” This march took place in the Antofagasta region, about 300 miles north of the Chilean capital.
Teachers are questioning the education aspect itself, which they say is too neoliberal and will not help the country aspire to becoming a world leader in education.
University of Chile Professor Miguel Urrutia told teleSUR this type of law doesn’t enable much change, and doesn’t represent the interests of teachers and students, but rather those of the class which has benefited for 40 years of imperial neoliberalism in Chile.
“The governing idea is that Chile has to make an impact, but the interests of teachers and students aren’t represented. There is no debate around what would be a good education system for this country,” Urrutia said.
“It’s hard to say the motivation is explicitly neoliberalist and promotes the inequality that characterizes Chilean society, but the hard facts don’t infringe at all on this fundamental aspect of education in Chile – inequality. This is why there has been such a strong support from cross sections teachers.”
Activities came to a halt today on the first day of the strike, which registered a 90 percent approval rate in the capital Santiago.
The following tweet refers to the march La Serena, some 300 miles north of Santiago.
Gajardo highlighted the high turnout and the fact that the march was peaceful and took place with no disturbances. He also said the government’s reform “does not represent a structural change, it’s more of the same, and the project can’t exit parliament the way it came in.”
Teacher’s College Treasurer Juan Soto said “teachers are mobilized because we are certain the project that is being debated is bad from A to Z. It’s no good to us and we need to be able to change it. We can’t accept a project that goes against what thousands and thousands of professors and the wider community want.”
Professors on strike demand careers that take their training into account and does not encourage individualism and competition in the name of commercialism.
Chile’s Education deputy secretary, Valentina Quiroga, rejected the strike and said the action would impact badly mostly on students.