On 15-17 November Education unions from 19 Latin American countries assembled in Belo Horizonte, Brasil, for Education Intenational’s 11th regional conference. More than 700 union activists attended the conference, giving a voice to the “movimiento pedagogico”, the Latin American movement of teachers, parents and students advocating for quality public education across the continent.
Hugo Yasky, EI’s regional president, said that more than 100 million Latin Americans live in extreme poverty and that the conservative governments dominating the region do not seem to be inclined to change their neoliberal course and address the multiple social challenges confronting Latin America.Yasky called for political action. EI’s member unions, he said, should double their efforts to prevent the weakening of their national public school systems and to resist privatization and commercialization and resist violations of human and trade union rights.
EI’s member organizations in Brasil, which hosted the three day regional conference, informed the delegates about anti-union measures taken by the Brazilian authorities. Following a decision last year to freeze public expenditure for the next 20 years, including the education budget, the government has proposed legislation, the Escolas sem partido Bill, which prohibits teachers to raise certain political and moral questions with their students. EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen who also addressed the conference called it “a foolish bill” and “an unjustifiable vote of no confidence in the Brazilian teaching profession”. He called upon the Brazilian government “to stay out of the classroom!”
Van Leeuwen also expressed concern about civil society organizations that have recently emerged in Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia and Mexico demanding that “gender ideology” should banned from the curriculum claiming that gender equity and LGBT rights undermine traditional family values. He said that the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire is inspiring the teaching profession to educate for democracy, freedom and social justice, and that EI would never accept restrictions of teachers rights and professional autonomy.
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