Nearly three weeks after a deadly clash with police, members of a radical teachers’ union are vowing to intensify their protests and have garnered some international support in their struggle against the government’s education reform package.
Amidst food shortages the Mexican government blames on blockades set up by members of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García has written Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to voice support for the protesting teachers.
“The people of Mexico not only have the right to protest the corporate-driven education reforms that have been instituted, they should protest these reforms,” wrote Eskelsen García. “In the U.S. and elsewhere, some of these same reforms have been tried and they have failed at the expense of students. The legitimate demands of educators and their supporters in Oaxaca should be met with negotiation, not repression and violence.”
The cornerstone of Peña Nieto’s reforms is the institution of mandatory skills tests to evaluate teachers. Educators who fail these tests could be dismissed. Members of the CNTE, who largely hail from the country’s poor and mostly rural south, say the tests would punish poorly resourced teachers and contend that the government should be investing in schools instead of penalizing teachers.
Government officials and the teachers have been in talks since the deadly June 19 clash that killed nine civilians in a small town in Oaxaca. And while the administration has agreed to some concessions, like the formation of a panel of experts and teachers to review the government’s education reforms, officials have remained steadfast that they will not repeal the 2013 law that sparked the protests, reports Reuters.
With the government seeming unwilling to back down this time (the teachers got the government to put the tests on hold in 2015), CNTE members have warned that they could call on thousands more teachers to close highways and shut the country’s borders, Reuters reports.
Mexico’s air force started flying food to communities shut off by the blockades last Thursday, Vice reports.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.