Teachers on strike

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Mexico City, and really the whole country, is currently living an uncomfortable situation and it has to do with the teachers. The CNTE, or teacher’s union, has been actively demonstrating every day for the last few weeks. Teachers from all parts of the country but particularly those of Michoacán, Oaxaca and Chiapas are travelling to the capital to march, close roads, camp out in the Zócalo, close the airport, cause as much chaos as possible. Now, causing chaos in Mexico City is not difficult to do. We live so close to chaos anyway that you only need a few hundred teachers at crucial points and life becomes impossible.  The police are blocking the route to the airport in order to keep it open; passengers are having to trail heavy luggage from distant points in order to get there, while others get through ok.

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Everyone is having a tough time with the road blockages and people are finding it hard and totally frustrating to get about. Businesses are, of course, suffering as a result.

So, what’s going on? Why are the teacher’s demonstrating? And what is the future of a million and a half children who are not back at school yet? Several governments have tried and failed to improve the level of education in Mexico but the union is so powerful it has been impossible, at least so far. There is, in theory, an obligatory exam that each and every teacher should sit and pass. Some of them have taken it; few of them have passed it. In theory, if you fail the exam you lose your teaching post; this is ignored. There is the tradition of passing teaching posts to other members of the family, which is illegal; this is permitted. It is a union that is more concerned with the wellbeing of its teachers than it is with the level of education or teaching skills. It’s very serious to contemplate the level of academic ability of the youngsters when they leave school at 16 and who may only have a rudimentary knowledge of the 3 R’s.  I am talking of government state schools, not private education. If you have money you buy your education; if you don’t, you get what you’re given, which is not much.

Education is supposed to be free for all, and it is a law that every child should go to school. But schools have little resources and what they have is destined for basic things like electricity, computers (if they’re lucky), installations, etc. Parents have to pay for books, uniforms, and anything else that the children might need. It is normal for parents to give up their Sundays to paint classrooms and build walls. Everything is done according to the financial possibilities of the children’s parents. Meanwhile, as schools are closed and the teachers are demonstrating the children are at home and not progressing with their studies. Classrooms are falling into disuse so the damage is considerable. 

Parents have the right to demand the best education for their children and they are fed up. How long this will go on I don’t know, but obviously it’s getting to a point of no return. Who will give in first? The teachers have to, for once and for all. Without education the future generations are at a huge disadvantage; they have the right to learn. It takes me back to the 80s when Margaret Thatcher held out against various unions in the UK, it was a huge battle at the time and it became very ugly. She never gave in and as a result the unions have never ever been as powerful as they once were. Perhaps this is what is about to happen here too, we shall see.

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