After a five months strike for decent pay and time for preparation, teachers and school students in Rio de Janeiro have continued to be in the forefront of the fight for public education. Teachers were among those who seized and extinguished the Olympic torch as it was paraded through Rio at the end of last month according to reports. This act symbolised the fury in Rio at the amount of money being spent on the Olympic Games, while public services are desperately underfunded.

An important article in the Nation described the importance and the innovative nature of the action taken by the teachers and students. Not only did they strike but they also occupied 81 schools and turned them into democratic spaces as one teacher describes:  'There were a lot of activities that we organized. We held debates about current issues, about racism, politics. We opened the libraries, held cultural events, and the schools became what they were supposed to be; cultural centers for the community. For students in their final year, we held classes on the Vestibular, a test that is similar to the SAT.'

The occupations were subject to brutality from Rio police, as teachers have been in the past. Tellingly however one teacher told the Nation:  'Rio de Janeiro state police alone have killed more people than the entire American police. We teachers are used to the violence, but it’s not as hard as what poor people face on a daily basis. Clearly, the police are much more violent in the favelas.'

Although the teachers did not win improved pay or hours, they did achieve shorter hours for non-teaching staff and an important change, which will mean that in future school principals will be elected by the school community.

The teachers expressed their solidarity with colleagues in the US, pointing out that they were facing the same fight for education against issues such as standardised testing:  'your struggle is our struggle, and our struggle is also yours.' TS can only agree, this struggle is global and international solidarity is vital. We can also be inspired by the creative actions of Rio teachers and students and learn from them.

To read the Nation article in full go here