Here’s Jill Friedberg again with some insights on the teaching of indigenous children in Oaxaca:
“The demand for rezonification, one of the demands by the teachers during the strike in 2006, was not about where teachers are sent to teach. The rezonification was essentially a cost-of-living demand that would change the salary “zone” for Oaxaca, so that teachers salaries would catch up to the increasing cost of living. [Note: Teachers in Oaxaca City are also living in a city where foreigners have driven up the cost of living]
The assigning of teachers to teaching positions is very complicated in Oaxaca. The Section 22 of the teachers union has a say in who teaches where. And the section 22 has a certain amount of control over IEEPO (the state department of education). That said, not all decisions about who teaches where are decided by the Section 22.
It seems to me that it used to be that teachers were more likely to be assigned to communities where they spoke the same language as the community. But why that has changed may or may not have to do with a state attempt to reduce the ability of teachers and communities to build alliances, by sending teachers to communities where they don’t speak the language. I think it has more to do with the hardships of teaching in rural communities.
It’s hard to get a teaching position in the city. It’s easy to get a teaching position in a rural, marginalized community where no one speaks spanish. It’s easy cause few teachers want to endure the hardships of teaching there (which means either living there and enduring the living conditions of the community or travelling back and forth between the community and home every week). There are of course exceptions…teachers who are very committed to the communities where they work and live, and who have no desires to leave those schools for a cushier position close to the city.
In short, the decision about who teaches where is so complicated and involves so many different sectors (the individual teachers themselves, the section 22, the state), that I don’t think the placement of teachers in communities where they don’t speak the language can be attributed to a state system that wants to keep its people ignorant.
That said…the state does play a role in deciding how well prepared teachers are when they go into indigenous communities to teach.
The folks most interested in bilingual education in the state are the Coalition of Indigenous Teachers of Oaxaca (CMPIO or Coalicion de Maestros y Promotores Indigenas de Oaxaca). They have been exploring ways, for years, of building an approach to bilingual education that is rooted in the communities and that really keeps the first language alive while also teaching Spanish. Easier said than done. They say that the biggest obstacle to quality bilingual education in Oaxaca is the lack of preparation. None of the normales rurales (rural teacher colleges) prepare teachers for indigenous, bilingual education. In fact, to teach in a bilingual elementary school, less preparation is required than that required of teachers not working in indigenous, bilingual communities. One can finish secondary school, spend the summer taking a few courses, pass a test, and start teaching in an indigenous elementary school. Not a lot of preparation for what is arguably the most challenging teaching job in the state.
I’ve visited communities where the parents want their children to retain their indigenous language. In others, the parents want their children to learn Spanish. In yet others, parents would prefer that their kids skip Spanish and learn English! It depends a lot, I think, on each community’s relationship to migration. I’ve been to communities where the teachers speak the same language as the kids and use that language in the classroom, mixing it with Spanish (especially in the early grades, like preschool and first grade). I’ve been to communities where the teachers don’t speak the same language as the kids, but try to pick up enough to be able to understand the kids. I’ve been to communities where there was a mix…50% teachers who speak the local language, 50% who don’t.
Anyway. it’s a very complicated topic. Oaxacan educators (especially the folks in the CMPIO) have been struggling with it for decades. It’s so complicated that it’s best not to generalize about what communities want nor about what teachers are doing in those communities. I’ve seen the whole spectrum of scenarios and I’ve only seen a tiny little bit.”