The National Education Union (NEU) solidarity visit to Mexico and the CNTE (Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación/ National Coordination of Education Workers)

Report by Hugo Aboites

We had four days of intense work, very interesting experiences, verbal and emotional interchanges, lots of learning I think for everyone of us. The first day we were surprised with watching and a bit interacting with a democratic assembly of probably two hundred children who were deciding, by vote based on arguments on specific matters of the school: from food, to space allocation at the recreation time;  from the demand of a more gentle treatment from the personnel in charge of the custody of the door of the school, to whether music should be played while in recreation.  The assembly was very respectful, listening to every one of the 6, 7, 8, 9 year old speakers who debated on the issues, most of the time based on clear and concise arguments. Children were happy, commenting the issues with one and other, raising their hand promptly and massively every time a vote was called.  Teachers did not dominate; they only kept a record on the black board  of the votes and the list of speakers in turn. Children were excited, happy, smiling and cheering when the decisions started to fall as rain drops.  Truly a manifestation of the alternative ways that the CNTE movement  (editor's note: CNTE is the democratic reform movement of the Mexican teachers union) is stimulating with its struggle and a practical children to learn to take collective command of an environment and institution. 

Then there was an interchange of questions and answers from both sides  (Mexican teachers and UK's) with a flow of information and curiosity from both sides. The delegation then spoke with the local branch of Amnesty International in the afternoon. The following day we had a press conference where the delegation presented its concerns about the reform, the Law of Internal Security, the forceful disappearance of the 43 and the fact-finding purpose of the trip.  There were questions from the floor, and although not much press was present, there were ample notes in the paper the following day. 

In the afternoon with had the meeting with the political leadership of the CNTE, with the presence of many delegates from Oaxaca, Sonora, Hidalgo, Jalisco, and other states, as well as three heads of sections of the Union. It lasted for hours, and touched issues very interesting for both sides (including how strikes are set, salaries, work load, evaluation, resistance...). At the end was a touching intervention from a Mexican leader who congratulated the delegation for its victory as leaders of the Union, admiring "these brave woman" (mujeres valientes), who gained the heart of all present.

The following day the delegation visited another school where we were presented with a theatrical production, a "pastorela" (a traditional play started during the colony, centuries ago, a simple history of evil versus good, applied to modern times, with children as actors), Then we visited the workshops that ranged from chemistry, clay, regional dances, and we were offered a Mexican lunch with "mole" a sauce made of chocolate, spices, etc. with chicken, rice and tortillas, (thin slices of cooked corn, that take the place of bread).

In the afternoon we had a talk with a small group of faculty and researchers who have been collaborating with the CNTE providing information, giving lectures on the implications of the Educational Reform around the country, writing articles in the press, interviews, signing petitions with thousands of colleagues. The role of ivory towers (universities) has thus had important changes in important areas, thanks to the participation of these organic intellectuals who designed new forms of intervention in the flow of events of a national movement of such scale as the one of CNTE. Finally, the last day, the delegation met with the family of  one of the 43 victims and with several organiztions for human rights.

The delegation made very clear to Mexican CNTE teachers  that they deliberately had decided to talk to them instead of the official union leadership (SNTE) and openly offered solidarity and to draw solidarity from other unions of other countries in favour of their struggles. That was very much appreciated. 

The above report from Hugo Aboites was the final posting Mary Compton, who created and maintained this website, oversaw before her death. Mary was especially proud of the commitment expressed in the meeting of her union’s delegation with CNTE, a reform movement within the corrupt, pro-government union, SNTE.  

 Mary created and maintained to continue international solidarity work among teachers unions globally after publication of the book she co-edited on the neoliberal attacks on public education, “The global assault on teaching, teachers, and their unions.” She thought teachers and education activists needed to be better informed about struggles waged by teachers in the global South that receive little or no attention in the corporate media. She scoured websites to find news and information about how others might offer help.

 A collective of teacher union activists and academics was established, with Mary’s approval before her death, to continue the site. We will gather and post information, news, and analyses in line with the site’s mission.  Mary’s posts were purposely not signed so that focus would remain on the site’s purpose, rather than her authorship or person. Following that tradition, the new webmaster will remain anonymous though postings may be signed, according to the contributors’ wishes.

 No one can replace Mary or her voice, but we will try to keep readers throughout the world informed and inspired, as did Mary. The collective is committed to helping teachers and teachers unions develop a global resistance to the dangerous, destructive international project that has resulted in so much harm to children, public education, the teaching profession, and teachers unions, in the pursuit of profits for the few at the expense of the many. We continue her work to honor Mary Compton, a great fighter for social justice, democracy, equality, and freedom.