Mexican president halts talks with teachers until they return to classrooms
MEXICO CITY – Efe news agency reported that President Enrique Peña Nieto said Monday Aug. 22 the government will stop negotiating with dissident teachers, who went on strike in mid-May to protest the education reforms in Mexico, until they return to the classroom.
Mexico’s children and young people cannot “be hostages” to any cause or the demands of any group, Peña Nieto said during an event in Mexico state, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, to mark the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
“Education first and dialogue later,” the president told members of the CNTE, the country’s second-largest teachers union.
Striking union members should return to the classroom because “the future of children is not negotiable,” Peña Nieto said.
The majority of public elementary schools in Oaxaca, Michoacan and Chiapas states, where the CNTE has the strongest presence, remained closed on Monday, the first day of school across Mexico.
The union, for its part, said Monday that members would not return to the classroom until the Peña Nieto administration’s education reforms were scrapped.
The CNTE accused the government of making it appear that it was negotiating with teachers in the wake of the Nochixtlan tragedy when the reality was otherwise.
On June 19, eight people were killed in Nochixtlan, a city in Oaxaca, in a clash between police and armed civilians during protests by teachers.
The Peña Nieto administration’s 2013 education overhaul includes regular teacher evaluations and ends longstanding union privileges.
The union contends the evaluations are punitive because they fail to take into account the fact that schools in rural areas often lack electricity and even textbooks.
Some 25.7 million children attend more than 225,000 pre-schools, elementary schools and high schools across Mexico staffed by more than 1 million teachers.
Officials have not said how children have been affected by the teachers’ strike in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Michoacan, three of Mexico’s poorest states.