In 2014 the Mexican government passed various reforms, including an educational reform which introduced a new exam for teachers and shortened vacations. Many teachers know how important vacations are since work always extends past the hours kids are actually in school. But it’s not as much the vacation cuts than the exam that is the cause of the uproar. This computer based exam tests on policies, laws, etc. rather than evaluating subject specific content or classroom management practices. My host sister and teacher, Karla, in July will be taking this exam broken into three sessions of four hours each in two days. Like all other teachers in their evaluation period if she fails, she’s fired.

As Karla and my host dad, a principal at a local middle school, explain to me the exam has very little to no practical knowledge for the subjects one teaches and much less to do with how good the teacher is. Furthermore, there are thousands of teachers in very rural areas who are paid wages that barely keep them above the poverty line. Their schools lack resources such as water and electricity making their priorities very practical. And for schools outside of earthquake zones, teachers don’t need to memorize the exact safety procedures, down to the code numbers. And as for giving an exam on a computer, a tool some rural teachers have never used, of course that is an added obstacle.

This educational reform not only avoids addressing the true problems within Mexico’s education system, it’s making it harder for those who already are barely keeping their heads above water. It’s a bureaucratic hoop to jump through, one making the profession even more unsupported, unpopular and difficult in a time where there are less and less teachers in the work force.

Although the reform is not new, protests are re-escalating due to more frequent layoffs of teachers who failed these exams. Michoacan, Oaxaca and Chiapas are the main states heating up and speaking out. By now, there have been strikes and marches all over the country in solidarity and support.

As it’s been described to me, there are two sides. People who support the teachers and people who absorb mainstream media.

The government, who buys out the main media sources, are calling protesting and striking teachers lazy for not working as much as everyone else (hence the vacation cuts) and not wanting to take a silly, easy exam. The media went so far as to initially present images of the fires and armed military forces attacking unarmed civilians as “false”. When they couldn’t lie about it anymore, they said the peaceful protesters fired first.

Much of the support the teachers, and the union organizing the striking (CNTE: Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación or National Coordinator of Education Workers), is coming from the parents of students who respect the people educating their kids and their surrounding communities seeing the devastating effects the reform has on the schools. The support is also coming from teachers in other parts of the country and around the world, human rights organizations who are investigating attacks as serious human rights violations and people consuming media sources that refuse to be bought out.

The country is not blind to the serious human rights violations the government commits (violently attacking peaceful protests/strikes, torturing detainees[1], giving medical attention only to those connected to the government which leads to innocent civilian deaths, detaining teachers without cause on stop and searches in transit, entering homes without cause, etc.) Mexico is still living under the shadow of the forced disappearances of Iguala’s 43 students in 2013. It realizes the power and connection of the government to injustices and oppression they live daily.

My big question to the Mexican government is: how are you going to educate your country if you keep firing your educators unjustly? And who will go out to the rural areas to teach? Who will want to become a teacher?

It is one more step to increasing the gap in access to education, to increasing the systemic oppression of impoverished communities.

The teachers are no longer the sole protesters. They have been joined by their communities and now the communities are armed (the teachers were not). Travel within Oaxaca and Chiapas is more or less impossible with blockades made by both protestors and police. The death toll has risen from 10 to 19 and more by some counts, many are wounded. Facing constricted medical care the hopes of healing serious wounds are slim. The 22 people forceably disappeared join the mass of more than 22,000 forceably disppeared people in Mexico. We all know they rarely come back, much less alive.

It worries me how little media coverage there is, how the mainstream media when reporting on the CNTE is filled with lies. And the media that is honest you must seek out. It begs we ask the question: What else is going on in the world that we may never know about?

Teachers of Mexico, you are teaching a great history lesson. You are teaching about fighting for your rights, demanding your rights and justice in the face of oppression.

The country is being shaken and it will not be hidden.

Estoy con los maestros y las maestras de México. Stand strong.

 


[1] Professors are exposing that they were physically and physiologically tortured for 18 hours: http://desdepuebla.com/nos-torturaron-afirman-profesores-detenidos-durante-enfrentamiento-en-nochixtlan/135010/

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