Spring in Oaxaca... while teachers protest, kids are left behind...
Each year, as surely as the swallows return to Capistrano or the monarch butterflies descend on Pacific Grove, teachers in Oaxaca organize strikes, marches, demonstrations and protests, disrupting life across the state.
And each year, thousands of children in one of the most impoverished states in the country are deprived of good quality education as these teachers leave their communities and classrooms to take part in the annual protests.
Yet you will never hear that from the teachers.
They will never tell you about parents that must leave kids alone at home because class has been canceled. They will never tell you how far behind Roberto and Julia are in their studies because their teachers decided to take another day or week off of classes to protest. And they will never tell you that many teachers in Oaxaca have never received any formal training to be a teacher.
They won’t tell you these things because it does not serve their purpose.
If you travel, as I have, in the villages of Oaxaca and talk to the parents, they are fed up with the powerful teachers unions. How, they ask, can their kids get an education if you never know when a teacher will show up? The frequency of the teacher strikes and the demands of the union leadership for participation in those strikes are not helping solve the education challenges in Oaxaca.
They are exacerbating it.
Teaching in Oaxaca is not easy and at some point, people reach a boiling point as they did in 2006, almost bringing down the state government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. For a good look at that fateful time, watch the documentary "Un Poquito de Tanto Verdad." I was there and can tell you, while this movie has a bias, it rings true and is pretty accurate.
I get that wages are low for teachers. I understand that many of the schools are pretty crappy. I’ve been in some of those tin walled rooms on hot days in Oaxaca and it isn’t pretty. I can tell you from experience how hard it is for a family to buy the necessary uniforms and supplies for their kids to attend school.
Many of the schools in Oaxaca are miles away from the people or, if they are close by, lack the basic necessities like electricity and running water. In some areas school is taught by video satellite and discipline is enforced by a different untrained parent each day. The challenges that are faced with educating population groups that grow up speaking indigenous languages and have no written alphabet are legion.
But teachers walking out of classes to get the attention of the government officials is not the solution. The only people hurt by this shortsighted strategy are the children the teachers claim to be helping.
The teachers union, known locally in Oaxaca as Seccion 22, APPO, and the government of Gabino Cue must find a way to solve the educational crisis in Oaxaca in a way that benefits everyone. Ignoring the teachers, refusing to negotiate and walking out on classes and leaving thousands of children behind to somehow educate themselves is not the answer.
Grow up people, Oaxaca, her children and her future are depending on you!