April 22 began a national teachers strike for public schools that left approximately eight million youth in Colombia out of the classroom. The Federation of Colombian Education Workers (La Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación in Spanish, or FECODE for short), one of the country's most important unions with more than a million affiliates, promised in a press release to continue the strike and organize protests after the government rejected its demands.
According to the president of FECODE, Luis Gruber, there are five key points at the negotiating table that need to be resolved with the Ministry of Education, lead by Gina Parody: better salaries, skill evaluations, health care access, free education, and an increase in the number of years allowed in preschool from one to three.
Minister Parody declared she would not negotiate until the teachers suspended the strike. She also seemed to be unaware of the reality of being a teacher in Colombia: she said that a teacher on average earned 2.5 million Colombian pesos, when in reality the quantity is much lower, around 1 million pesos ($420 dollars monthly)
Among the scheduled activities were marches on April 27, in which professors, students, and other citizens mobilized in different parts of the country to demand that the government negotiate.
The strike also united teachers and students from various public universities. On social media, people discussing the strike used the hashtags #SantosGinaNegocienConFecode, (Santos, Gina, negotiate with Fecode) #Fuerzamiprofe (strength to my teacher) and #YoApoyoAMIProfe (I support my teacher).
User Leonardo Coca questioned the promises made by Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, to dignify the work of teachers:
#SantosGinaNegocienConFecode ¿las promesas educativas quedan en la memoria de los políticos o en la del pueblo? pic.twitter.com/6aZfrp1DG5
— Fernando Coca (@durocontra) abril 29, 2015
#SantosGinaNegotiatewithFecode Education promises are remembered by politicians or by the people?
User Caty posted an image that captured the strike students undertook at her school:
Los estudiantes del colegio Pablo Herrera entramos en paro #apoyoamiprofe queremos una educación integra! pic.twitter.com/B60DuVO0MY — Caty (@KtyChN) abril 24, 2015
We students from Pablo Herrera school are joining the strike #supportmyteacher we want complete education!
Likewise, Duban Alexi Arboleda showed how students at the Universidad de Antioquia united for the cause:
Estudiantes de udea también apoyan el paro educativo @ginaparody @Mineducacion pic.twitter.com/X3tfiozd0x
— Duban Alexi Arboleda (@_Duban_) abril 29, 2015
Udea students also support the education strike
Congressman Iván Cepeda posted for consideration a worldwide salary table where the low salary of Colombia's teachers is evident:
¿Por qué hay paro docente? Tabla de sueldos de los maestros en el mundo: pic.twitter.com/gxGK8cd9be
— Iván Cepeda Castro (@IvanCepedaCast) abril 27, 2015
Why is there a teacher's strike? Salary table of teachers around the world
User Juco expressed the importance of having teachers:
#FuerzaMiProfe El maestro en la calle, enseña democracia, enseña a defender los derechos de todos nuestro pueblo! pic.twitter.com/kOR6MCMriS
— JUCO (Habla la J) (@hablalaJ) abril 27, 2015
#Strengthmyteacher The everyday teacher teaches democracy and teaches to defend the rights of our people!
OCECOLOMBIA.CO shared images of students making posters with the help of teachers:
El Paro Nacional de Fecode recibe amplio apoyo de nuestros estudiantes colombianos. #FuerzaMiProfe pic.twitter.com/TfCU5PHY2a
— OCECOLOMBIA.CO (@OCEcolombia) abril 27, 2015
Fecode's national strike receives widespread support by our Colombian students #strengthmyteacher
User Carlos Darío Morales, after making a comment about how important teachers should be for politicians as a means to achieve peace, published this image questioning the attitude of the minister of education to refuse dialogue while the government agrees to conversation with Cuba with guerrillas of Farc:
#FuerzaMiProfe! Hay q enseñarle a la clase política de este país que la educación es el verdadero camino para la paz. pic.twitter.com/lnnGqDH2Kn
— Carlos Darío Morales (@CarlosDario1975) abril 27, 2015
#Strengthtomyteacher We need to teach the political class of this country that education is the true way to peace
Image: So you're telling me won't negotiate with teachers in the middle of a strike but will negotiate with guerrillas in the middle of a conflict?
On May 1, Workers’ Day in many countries, Colombians also marched, and user Alba Mendoza made reference to this rally to signal support:
#Apoyando la marcha y protestas del dia del trabajo a los profesores y a todos los trabajadores en Colombia por un salario digno estable,,,
— Alba Mendoza (@albatours_viaje) Mayo 1, 2015
#Supporting the march and protests of Workers’ Day and the teachers and all of the Colombian workers for a dignified, stable salary…
Fecode requested a new negotiator to replace the minister of education, so Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otálora organized a conversational meeting between both parties to come to an agreement, even though the strike continued.
Update: After a two-week strike, teachers in Colombia finally headed back to their classrooms after the government agreed to make concessions early on May 6. Government officials came to a “tentative agreement” with Fecode.