Brazilian teachers face state repression

Submitted by Matthew on 16 October, 2013 - 1:32

The ongoing struggle of teachers in Brazil faces increasing state repression.

Teachers have been involved in continuing struggle over the past few years. In 2010 teachers in Sao Paulo were involved in strikes over pay, demonstrations every Friday were repressed by police.

Starting in 2012, the union called strikes to make the government implement a minimum wage for teachers that had been voted through the parliament five years ago.

This was to involve rolling action across regions of Brazil but the union pulled the action. Teachers in Sao Paulo were unhappy with the strike being pulled without its demands being met and protested against their union leadership.

The current strike action has been going on since mid August and has seen impressive support from union members, the wider labour movement and the public.

The strike is partly to demand a 19% pay rise, as opposed to the government offer of 15%. However, members of the union are saying that the action is about more than that.

Teachers in Rio de Janeiro are typically hired on temporary contracts and the union is demanding an end to this practice.

However a running thread through the struggles of the last few years in Brazil, as in so many cases across the world, is that teachers are fighting against neo-liberal reform of education.

Teachers say that education in Brazil has not been funded properly funded for years but that the state has been able to find money to fund projects like the World Cup and Olympic games, evicting whole communities in the process.

Teachers in Sao Paulo raised the demand that 100% of the compensation paid to states for oil extraction should be put into education.

Whilst in 2012 one of the strike demands was for 10% of GDP to be spent on education, currently it is about 6%.

In addition to lack of funding, teachers claim that the government is pursuing increasing privatisation of education as well as high stakes testing.

An academic who is supporting the strike, Professor Adilson Filho, said:  “We would like society to understand that our struggle is not just salary… But against this policy that has transformed classrooms into production lines, dehumanizes education and promotes a climate of competition that only harms the young students.”

In mid-October teachers in Rio stormed the City Hall to demand an end to the repression of their protests.

Some 300 gained entry and occupied the hall whilst thousands protested outside.

Protests have been attacked by police using tear gas and rubber bullets. The Rio administration has been threatening to have the strike made illegal, docking pay of striking teachers or sacking probationary teachers who take part in the action.

In one video of the action in Rio a teacher says that she considers that she is not only fighting for her own rights but setting an example to her students of the imperative to do so.

Teachers across Latin America have been engaged in similar struggles and one common slogan has been: “Teachers in struggle are also teaching!” 

• Please send messages of solidarity to Rio teachers at teachersriodejaneiro@outlook.com

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