Hundreds of thousands in teachers’ strike across Colombia

World Today

Schools are out early for hundreds of thousands of Colombian school teachers and their students. The country’s main teachers union is out on strike.

On Tuesday, members of the nation’s largest teacher’s union staged its second public protest after launching a nationwide strike on May 11. More than 350,000 teachers are asking the government to increase investment in education.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

Hundreds of thousands in teachers' strike across Colombia

Schools are out early for hundreds of thousands of Colombian school teachers and their students. The country's main teachers union is out on strike. That's left millions of students stranded with no place to go while their parents go to work. CGTN's Michelle Begue has more from Bogota.

“We are the future of Colombia. Behind every professional there is always a teacher. We can’t have our rights ignored,” Faizuli Fiesco Neira, a math teacher said.

These public school teachers have asked for higher wages and more teachers to meet the needs of students. Key issues in past strikes. The demonstrators complain the Colombian government still hasn’t addressed their concerns.

Some teachers said they have 40 to 50 students in a class, making quality education impossible.

“The students can’t learn. We go at a slower pace with so many students. In order to work on a quality education we have to have fewer students,” Amparo Beltrán, from the crowd of teachers said.

Talks with the government that began back in March have stalled. President Juan Manuel Santos says the government can’t meet the union’s demands, because it doesn’t have the money.

In Bogotá, Gloria, a mother of three, supports the teachers. But the strike is affecting her three children. During the strike, they’ve been at home alone 12 hours a day.

“Every day we need to think of where to leave our kids. I have to find things for them to do so they don’t get into drugs, hang out on the streets and look for friends in the wrong places,” she said.

She leaves for work at 5 a.m. and doesn’t get back till 5 in the evening. She earns the minimum wage of around $300 a month. Thus, she can’t afford daycare.

The teachers said Colombia can’t afford to give the nation’s children anything less than a quality education. The union wants more funding for food programs, better transportation for schools and better science labs and sports facilities.

Without an agreement, the month-long vacation scheduled in June could be starting early for many of the country’s eight million children. An even more pressing question is when will that vacation end.