BOGOTA – Small groups of teachers took to the streets of several cities in Colombia on Thursday to demand more health resources from the government, the approval of a basic income and to reject the “alternation and gradualness” model to begin face-to-face classes in schools.
The sit-ins, in which there were no more than 50 people, were held in Bogota, Cali, Medellin and Bucaramanga, and were convened by the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fecode).
According to the federation’s president, Nelson Alarcon, all biosafety protocols such as social distancing and the use of masks and gloves were met during the protests, the first of the guild during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The teachers of Colombia are rejecting the government directive with which it intends to return to face-to-face classes under the scheme they call ‘alternation and gradualness’ because there are no biosafety conditions and teachers, students and parents are at risk,” said the secretary of educational, pedagogical and scientific affairs of Fecode, Miguel Angel Pardo.
The union leader assured that the sit-ins on the streets, which in Bogota’s case took place in front of the Ministry of Education, were accompanied by the country’s educators virtually from their homes.
In mid-March, the Colombian government suspended face-to-face classes in schools and colleges, a measure that was later extended to universities.
Minister of Education Maria Victoria Angulo said on Thursday that the government expects to have all the biosafety protocols for returning to classrooms from Aug. 1 and evaluations will be made by region.
However, Pardo assured that Fecode will hold another demonstration on June 11 and warned that it can even lead to “a national strike,” a situation that “the teachers do not want.”
On the other hand, Fecode assured that it supports the initiative of 54 senators who proposed to assign a minimum wage monthly income (877,803 pesos, about $245) to improve the situation of the unemployed and independent workers who have lost their jobs.
“That will help families and of course children who go to schools and colleges because it gives them some peace of mind regarding the income to support the family,” Pardo explained.
Fecode also requested that the entity in charge of managing the health resources of teaching professionals better execute the resources it manages.
Faced with the demands, the education ministry assured in a statement that “it ratifies its commitment to maintain a responsible, permanent, open dialog, of decision-making and compliance with agreements.”
In addition, the ministry stated that it has been holding, even during the COVID-19 epidemic, working groups to advance the fulfillment of the agreements made in May 2019, when teachers stopped academic activities during several days.