Teachers will assemble in every state capital of Colombia on Wednesday for a national strike organized by Colombian Federation of Educators (Fecode).
Approximately 330,000 teachers are expected to go on strike in a move to pressure the national government into “compliance with the agreements and commitments it made in May.”
According to a statement by Fecode, the teacher’s union is calling for “the immediate solution to the problem of the provision of health services, in keeping with contract conditions; timely payment of debts for various purchases; the progress of the operation of the Tripartite Commission; the implementation of wage adjustment; guarantees for teachers and union workers; and respect for the life and physical integrity of educators.”
On Colombian radio Caracol the president of Fecode, Luis Grubert, added that Colombia’s educators should play a more significant role in the development of a new education policy.
“It is not possible to design an educational policy without [involving] teachers,” Grubert stated.
Grubert also noted that the government has neglected a socialization campaign to make schools safer. Over the past 20 years, 999 teachers have been killed, 60 of them within the past four years.
The newly-appointed Minister of Education, Gina Parody, responded immediately on Caracol Radio, saying that teachers are at the core of Colombia’s aim to be one the most educated country in Latin America by 2025. Parody admitted that progress was still necessary in some areas, including health care.
The minister added that negotiations with the government did not start now, but that the Santos administration has attended more than 200 meetings and signed 104 agreements, of which 100 have been met.
2015 education budget vs. goals
On August 19th, Parody announced the government’s plans to eradicate illiteracy by 2018 by constructing new schools, expanding classroom use in rural areas, focusing on new technology, and curbing the high-school dropout rate.
The 2015 budget put before Congress on Tuesday marked the first time in Colombia’s history that funding towards education, which grew nearly 5.75%, will exceed that going towards national defense, which grew by only 1.2%.
However, the majority of the funding will go towards financing Universities and Icetex grants, which are scholarships for higher education students, leaving much of the basic infrastructure and lower level student assistance programs underfunded.