At least six people have been killed and many more injured in the latest fight by Mexican teachers against education reforms which are being forced through by the Nieto government, literally at the barrel of a gun.
This website has received the following report from Marta Sanchez about the latest developments in this heroic battle which is of huge significant to teachers globally:
Teachers in México City and in several states across México continue to voice opposition to the model of education reform introduced by the government of Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, spearheaded by Secretary of Education, Aurelio Nuño Mayer, and promoted by Mexicanos Primero. The past weeks have seen massive mobilizations by teachers, parents, students, and citizens at large. On June 11th the situation intensified when
the government forced a standoff between teachers in the City of Oaxaca and security forces by taking into custody Francisco Villalobos Ricárdez, Secretary of Organization for "Section 22” of the Coordinadora de Trabajadores de la Educación (Coordinating Committee for Workers in Education, or CNTE). CNTE is an organization within the national teachers’ union, el Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación (National Syndicate for Workers in Education, or SNTE). CNTE represents a democratizing force within the SNTE, while the SNTE itself has been co-opted by government interests.
On June 11th, it was reported that as many as 800 armed units in tactical gear were deployed to Oaxaca City to evacuate areas occupied by the teachers. Teachers erected makeshift barriers to prevent eviction. México slept as police faded in and out of clouds of tear gas on video captured by protestors and posted on social media between 11:30 pm on the night of June 11th and into the early hours of June 12th. The teachers in Oaxaca were further
provoked by the June 12th detention of fellow teacher and Section 22 leader, Rubén Núñez Ginez, who last year sharply criticized the Mexican government for detaining teachers unjustly. The charges against Villalobos Ricárdez and
Núñez Ginez are described as government fabrications. In the aftermath of the 2014 unresolved forced disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero and the dismissal of the GIEI, a multinational, interdisciplinary group of
experts investigating the case, the detention of these two educators again raised concerns and ire and deepened the mistrust teachers have toward a regime that represses teachers’ voices and incarcerates and disappears
Political actions continued throughout the week. On June 16th, police detained buses transporting teachers from other states into México City, prompting lawyers to file an order of protection, citing violations of rights guaranteed by the Mexican constitution. The teachers were eventually able to move freely. On June 17th protestors filled the streets of México City. In flanking maneuvers, security forces formed deep rows of 50-60 units per row, encapsulating the protestors stopping protesters from reaching el Zócalo, México City’s public plaza and historical site of political, cultural,social and recreational events. More protests are planned for June 26th. Other teacher actions continue throughout the country including in states where resistance to the reform has been low, like Jalisco. On June 18th the
situation again escalated when a prolonged confrontation between teachers and police in Nochixtlán in the state of Oaxaca that left 6 people dead and hundreds injured. On-the-scene photographer, Jorge Luis Plata, says he saw
only police fire. This is corroborated by other sources. On June 22, México’s Secretary of Interior, Osorio Chong and the CNTE leadership met to dialogue. They plan to meet again on Monday, June 27th. It is unclear what
the outcome of these meetings will be, though CNTE has a 9-point plan which does not seem to directly address the current model of education reform.
Mexican teachers argue that this model of education reform is really about restructuring labor. The reform phases out teachers’ labor rights and seeks to privatize a public good. Miguel, a student enrolled in a rural teachers
college, described the importance of a free public education. “We are given food, shelter, a place to sleep, and an education. In exchange for this, we have to give back to society by implementing workshops, and organizing
sporting, cultural and all types of events...They are trying to break up these schools…Many people in the government say these schools are too costly. These [schools] are for children of campesinos [farmers] and workers…this means many of us who are in this school, if such a school did not exist, would simply not have the opportunity to go on to higher education” (Sánchez, 2017, in process). The government has targeted rural teachers colleges for closure.
Many teachers also point to the poor conceptualization of a reform that prioritizes standardized testing of student and teacher with evaluations that are developed and administered by others outside of the education field;
disregards differences in student learning that are rooted in linguistic, cultural, socio-economic, and geographic realities; and which ignores competing, even opposing, visions of what education is.
The international community should stand with Mexican teachers and students like Miguel. Mexican teachers are embedded in the communities they teach in, often living in similar conditions of economic precariousness as their
students. They understand the challenges but also the strengths of families and communities. They tend to commit life-long to a profession that the current regime has denigrated through a highly orchestrated media campaign
and by making changes to the Mexican constitution. Students like Miguel serve their communities as students and teachers. They become the defenders of long-championed rights, such as the right to a public education. The concerns
of teachers, parents and students about a reform that mimics the failed models used in other countries, including the United States, should be heard. More critical are 1) an immediate halt to state repression against teachers,
2) the immediate release of political prisoners protesting this failed model of education reform, 3) an immediate halt to the current model of educationreform proposed by the governing classes and business elites.