Conflicts & War

Uruguayan students, teachers strike against public education budget cuts

Montevideo, Jun 15 (EFE).- Thousands of students and teachers turned out in Uruguay on Wednesday to protest the $80 million public education budget cut that, they say, has harmed the system over the past two years.

The High School Teachers Association alluded to making a “pedagogical adjustment” that will “cut content to prioritize competencies.”

The president of the National High School Teachers Federation (FeNaPES), Jose Olivera, told EFE that the “overwhelming” demonstration by education workers and students was staged to protest “a reality that is being made unsustainable.”

In that regard, he said that besides a real loss in wages, the main consequences of the cutback include a reduction in the number of teaching positions and the resulting “overpopulation” in classrooms, with up to 45 students per teacher, along with the elimination of individual courses and courses of study.

In addition, there has been a reduction in resources to attend to providing food for students at various schools.

Student movement representative Valentina Rodriguez said at the end of the march that passed by the Economy and Finance Ministry and terminated at the Executive Tower, Uruguay’s government seat, that the strike was staged to “defend quality education” and so that “dying of cold” would not become the norm in classrooms.

“Let’s see … Mr. President, if you can live on a teacher’s salary,” shouted teachers as they demanded higher pay.

The 24-hour strike comes as part of a number of actions by various unions during June, including strikes by construction and metallurgical workers to protest pared-down government budgets that must go to Parliament for debate before June 30.

The Settling of Accounts bill will allow the government to revise the budgetary allocations for last year and adjust them, if needed.

In addition, Uruguay’s powerful PIT-CNT union has called a general strike “to defend quality work and salaries” for July 7.

During the day, Education and Culture Minister Pablo da Silveira said that “it’s not good” to leave students without classes, given that – according to his understanding – “there’s no recognizable reason for explaining this strike.”

With the aim of guaranteeing that meals will still be provided for students at school during the strike, the teachers organized to deliver pre-planned menus to the children.

Gabriela Dobal, one of the teachers who participated in that voluntary work at a Montevideo school, told EFE that “The current situation in the schools really is causing families to discuss this because they see that there are fewer teachers, fewer materials, fewer assistant teachers.”

Given the situation, minister Da Silveira said that “a step in the right direction” would be to show “greater sensitivity and greater concern for the students.”

EFE jrt-apf-rmp/cmm/laa/bp

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