Hundreds of thousands in teachers’ strike across Colombia

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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

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.
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“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.

  • Jackie Henríquez

    We have to get out of the classrooms and go to the streets because this is the only way that the Government pays attention to our demands. President Santos has repeatedly said that there is no mone; this is false because there are thousands of millions for corruption but there is not a penny for health and education.

  • Mafe Pinzón

    It is very sad and it is happening in the country of the president of the peace, who got ” THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE” and whose political compromise was Peace (without investment) Equity ( with corruption) and Education ( with corruption, no investment and hunger)…. too sad

  • Sulay Jennifer Rodriguez Bersi

    It is so sad that a non-Colombian journalist has a clearer view of public teachers’ situation than Colombian ones. Journalists in here do not care about this. A clear example of this is that, TV channels like Caracol and RCN, gave more time to talk about Colombian porn star Esperanza Gomez’s new projects, than to talk about the current teacher strike. We, teachers, are not important to Colombian society.

  • Pino José

    This foreign reporter says more thrut than other journalists who belong to colombian mass media. It is incredible how we can read impartial news from different info source! Teachers have reasons enough to be in the streets asking for better esucation. They have always known how these governments think about colombian education. Where is the money our country saves because it does not need to waste money in war against Farc. So there no more excuses. Stop to have education as a cinderella.

  • gabriel

    Stupend new, we are the iinternational journal yet. It was nessesary for the whole community to know what’s hapenning here in Colombia. Thanks

  • Ana Manrique

    Thank you very much for publishing the reality of education in Colombia and abroad know that we do it for the future of our students. We want Colombia to be the most educated but of good quality starting with the welfare of us teachers.

  • Toya Herrera

    We’re fighting for our rights. But also and the most important fact of this strike is the fighting for the education of thousands of Colombian children who deserve quality in their schools…

  • Stella Jaimes

    Je plains nos parents nous voient comme babysisters teachers.Nunca et ne savent pas quoi faire avec les enfants quand il y a du chômage, mais quand il n’y a pas les mêmes enfants restent une demi-journée dans la rue et les parents se soucient peu de ce qu’ils passer.

  • Fanny Montenegro

    Department of labor too… we have 17the days in strike… goverment dont solve nothing… all our labor rights are brokening….

  • Teacher Janeth

    The Colombian government says we are only fighting for our salaries. That’s not true. We are fighting for the welfare of education- teachers and students’:
    .- fewer students per class and/or more training and assistance for students with special needs
    .- since education is said to be “free” we need more resources (material, technology, infrastructure…) to help students discover and develop their potential
    .- better salary conditions so that the best academic people in Colombia have the desire to become teachers