Today marks the second Monday that the public school teachers in Colombia are on strike. Since Wednesday, May 10, teachers have been organizing and marching and voicing their anger with the Ministry of Education. They are striking for several reasons:
- They were slated to receive pay raises this year. They have not received those raises.
- In fact, all pay checks in February were delayed, and teachers were paid 1-2 weeks late.
- The health insurance that teachers are provided with is not great. It can take weeks to get an appointment, especially if they need to see a specialist. And from my own experience here in Colombia, I would say that the medical field is pretty specialized/compartmentalized, so I could see that being pretty frequent.
- Schools are not well-funded and majorly lack resources.
- No subject has a class set of books; any teacher that wants their students to have books has to require those students to pay for it themselves.
- Even copies are paid for by teachers; as a result, hand-outs are seldom used.
- This means that classes involve a lot of copying and dictating – a huge waste of time and super boring.
- Classrooms themselves are in disrepair – tiles missing from the floors, fans that don’t work, dripping ceilings, broken desks and chairs – which creates a lot of distractions and discomfort for students
- Students often treat teachers very poorly and get away with it, thanks to a lack of a disciplinary system
- The Ministry of Education wants to all schools to move to a single shift. If you read my previous posts, you know that schools have 2 shifts – morning and afternoon. Merging them honestly sounds impossible to me, even though I know schools have done it. How?! Here are some of the arguments against the single-shift system:
- Lack of classrooms means classes will be even more over-crowded. Most classes at my schools are already 40-45 students.
- While my schools have “lunch rooms,” these spaces are really small, and the “lunch” that they are served is just bread and milk, sometimes juice when they are lucky.
- This means kids will be at school during all the hottest hours of the day, getting no relief from the early morning or late afternoon hours. Heat is already a major distraction for our students.
- Teachers would be expected to work more hours at the school, without receiving additional compensation.
This strike is indefinite. My host mom, who is the teachers’ union rep for her school, keeps telling me “que va pa’ largo largo” – that it’s going to go for a long, long time. Only time will tell.