For two weeks now, the teachers have constructed a planton in the Zocalo and in the surrounding streets. Tents abut each other and guy-wires (actually cord), holding up tarps to protect from the rain, extend in every direction…low enough so that it’s difficult for a tall person like myself to make my way through the streets. Doorways to businesses are virtually blocked from sight…with teachers lying and sitting on the sidewalks in front of them.
The governor must have made some deal with the teachers before the strike. No graffiti to speak of and no huge political banners…only signs indicating which town or region a group is from.
The major roads into the city have been and are barricaded at intervals including the road to the airport. Banks, state offices and the like have been blocked intermittently. My dentist complained that she often is blocked from getting to work from her home in Huayapam to her office in the city…leaving patients to sit and wait.
It is assumed that Section 22 of the Oaxaca teacher’s union think the barricades put pressure on the government to negotiate positively with their demands. But all I hear from the people who live and work in the city is “the barricades don’t hurt the government….they just hurt the people!”
Strikes are going on simultaneously all over the country and in Mexico City.
My reaction this year to the strike is interesting. In 2006 I was rooting for the teachers and their demands for more and better educational services, teacher pay and the fall of then Governor Ruiz…corrupt beyond measure and who scuttled out of office at the end of his tenure with 3 billion pesos. He and a dozen of his ministers have been sued but lightly investigated with the verdict “not enough evidence.”
This year I am also feeling…”the barricades only hurt the people!” I and some friends want to go to Huayapam today to a birthday party. We don’t know if we will get there or not…have to turn back or get stuck in a line of traffic. We are saying that the teachers have to find better tactics. In 2006 I didn’t mind the inconveniences (after all I don’t have to find a way to get to work here). As an expat, I defended the right of the people to defend their own future. But now, in the face of impunity, and knowing these strikes have been going on every year for the past 27 years, I am impatient for the people. Nothing ever seems to get solved. The government throws a few bones every year but the system never changes. The corrupt Section 22 never changes. Teachers with a third grade education can buy a certificate. Certificates can be handed down from father to son. At issue also is teacher evaluation and testing of students. But teacher evaluation was tied to pay and the teachers have gotten a concession on this. The testing is an unresolved issue. The newest Spanish speaking teachers are sent to mountain pueblos to teach kids who only speak their indigenous tongue and don’t know Spanish. Testing would presumably be done in Spanish.
Anyway, all this only gives the rest of the people an excuse to hate the teachers. And the parents are left holding the bag.
The following is an impassioned plea from another expat here:
I applied for a my first teaching job in Boston. First I took the universal teacher evaluation test, by which the highest scoring were first hired for positions. Then I waited.
By October (school began in September) it was clear that although my score for Boston applicants was third from the topmost person, something fishy was happening. I called the school department. All apologies, they assigned me a school the very next day, from which another teacher had just resigned. It was in an all black (pre-integration) neighborhood of all black kids whose school had no new textbooks and few old ones. There were no functioning bathrooms for the kids, at times of the month when adolescent girls seriously wanted a bathroom and a place to get clean, they stayed home. The boys were often recruited by the male teachers to buy dope. The best joke: the kids put a family of newborn rats in the desk drawer of one teacher. Another joke: hang a fellow student out the window over the asphalt yard by holding his ankles.
I survived, the kids maybe survived. I learned a couple of things: 1) badly treated hungry kids don’t study. 2) teacher tests don’t mean shit.
So here I am surely one of few who supports what Section 22 is doing and saying. Yes, I know the union was corrupted by PRI governors and caciques; and abuses, such inheriting a teaching job, are numerous. I also know that for 27 years Section 22 has been pushing for better salaries but simultaneously for shoes, paid-uniforms, books, bathrooms, breakfasts. I visited the current encampment in the zocalo and spoke briefly with a newly graduated normal school teacher, a first-job guy who does not speak any indigenous language, and is not moreno (brown-skinned). He was sitting under a tarp playing cell phone games. Bored, I would say, and happy that somebody spoke to him. He’s not specially political and doesn’t know too much about his union’s history either. In 2006 he was an adolescent in secondary school, and rarely came into the capital. His first classroom is primary grade kids. I asked him if he likes teaching. Yes, he replied, I am learning so much from the kids! He smiled broadly.
Right away in my book he qualifies as a teacher. His Spanish is good; he graduated from a five year university level program where pedagogy is emphasized as well as content information. He’s better prepared in 2012 than I was in 1968 with a Masters degree from Boston College and accreditation in three areas including Spanish which I couldn’t speak.
The Section 22 kid who was hired legitimately when he applied, tested only by his normal school (and why should we assume they pass youngsters who don’t know either their subject or how to teach it?) told me he learned from his kids and he smiled. I wept.
Section 22 has pushed Cue to accept the fact that one size does not fit all, neither for teacher evaluation nor for curriculum. They decline to walk away from the 26 unprosecuted murders of 2006 and the half dozen since. They champion the indigenous protests over mining and land grabs. They understand the word “neoliberalism”. They understand ghost towns, towns where the remaining people live off family remittances from (migrants) in the USA. They understand impunity and corruption, caciques who stole towns’ entire education budgets, governors who ignore an education level now the worst in Mexico. Blame the teachers? Not me. Been there, done that.
No one likes being held hostage to issues they don’t understand. As I walked past a blocked registry office an angry woman turned to me and shrieked, Lazy bunch of bastards! Her frustration undoubtedly was caused not just by being unable to enter a state office, but also, I imagine, by having kids at home driving her (and her mother) nuts because there have been no classes for two weeks. Maybe she knows that with all public classes open, her kids still may not be able to go to the public university since there are not enough seats, and very likely they will settle for semi-menial jobs. Or maybe there will be no jobs. Maybe they will try to cross the desert in Arizona. Or maybe her story is entirely different, I don’t know.
I ask myself why in 2006, 500,000 adults spontaneously came out to march with these very teachers. Why was the PRI was voted out and will not recover this state. Why now, in 2012 what the media publish are only photos of blocked access and uncollected garbage. The current governor Cue is backing down, item by item on 22′s demands. Good for him. He’s neoliberal, but he’s not stupid. His education department head has resigned, and thus far no tear gas has been launched. By Nancy Davies.
Tags: Mexico, Oaxaca