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Teachers Strike in Colombia Leaves More Than 8 Million Students Without Class

Foto de una de las marchas en Colombia impulsada por la Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación del 22 de abril de 2015. Foto: Marcela Zuluaga, tomada de la cuenta en Flickr El Turbión bajo licencia Creative Commons.

One of the marches in Colombia caused by the Federation of Colombian education workers (la Federación Colombiana de Trabajadores de la Educación (Fecode)) on April 22, 2015 Photo by: Marcela Zuluaga, taken on Flickr account el Turbión  under license Creative Commons.

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:

#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:

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:

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:

Why is there a teacher's strike? Salary table of teachers around the world

User Juco expressed the importance of having teachers:

#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:

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:

#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:

#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.

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