México’s teachers struggle for justice

Teachers protesting in Cuernavaca, México. WW photo: Judy GreenspanCuernavaca, México — “To be a teacher and not to fight is a contradiction in our fundamental way of teaching.” That statement, repeated all over, is the essence of the struggle of the teachers in Mexico unfolding throughout the country. In Mexico, tens of thousands of public school teachers (K-12) are fighting against the latest reform measure of the federal Department of Education.

A recent law passed in Mexico now requires all public school teachers to take a federal exam to supposedly measure their teaching competence. “La Reforma” (the reform) is in reality an online evaluation by the top office of education, and if teachers “fail,” they will be fired. The teachers of this country have a long rich history of militancy and struggle. This latest “reform” is an attempt to crush the movement of the public school teachers and strengthen the campaign to privatize education. Private school teachers, of course, do not have to take this “evaluation” exam.

Over the past month, the National Coordination of Education Workers (CNTE) has led massive demonstrations, involving occupations and the blocking of major highways, that have rocked cities in every state of this country. On July 1, a national day of protest took place demanding that “La Reforma” be overturned.

Several marches have been held in Cuernavaca, the capital city of the state of Morelos. On two occasions, teachers left the schools to demonstrate in the streets. On the national day of protest, nearly 2,000 teachers filled the streets surrounding the main plaza of Cuernavaca. Their chants were “¡Urgente! ¡Urgente! ¡Evaluar al presidente!” (Urgent! Urgent! Evaluate the president!) and “¡Peña entiende, la educación no se vende!” (President Peña must understand, education is not for sale!) The protest signs exposed the mandated reform as a punitive fraud — an attempt to crush the militant movement against the privatization of education of Mexico. Many teachers have expressed their anger over being scapegoated for systemic problems in the education system and have refused to take the exam.

The education secretary, Emilio Chuayfett, has admitted that his plan is not going well in many states around the country. Teachers from Oaxaca, Chiapas and other states have set up tents in La Plaza de la Revolución in this country’s capital, Mexico City, to protest the “evaluation.” The CNTE in Morelos has vowed to continue the fight for justice for the teachers of Mexico.

Photo: Teachers protesting in Cuernavaca, México.
WW photo: Judy Greenspan