GCE Latin America & the Caribbean Region: news round-up
BRAZIL: Set-back for democracy and human rights in Brazil
Following school closures and frozen public transport in February, a police strike in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo has resulted in more than 158 deaths, as the armed forces intervened. GCE’s regional member network CLADE and its Brazilian coalition Campanha Nacional pelo Direito à Educação point out that this situation is part of a wider context of setbacks for democracy and human rights in Brazil that have been driven since the inauguration of the government of Michel Temer.
In December 2016, Brazil's Senate approved a strict cap on government spending which will slash resources for public services, including health and education, for the next 20 years. This is an unprecedented blow to the right to education in Brazil. Students and young people have been at the forefront of the vehement opposition to these cuts.
According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, these spending cuts amount to a violation of Brazil’s human rights obligations: “It will hit the poorest and most vulnerable Brazilians the hardest, will increase inequality levels in an already very unequal society, and definitively signals that social rights are a very low priority for Brazil for the next 20 years.”
For more in Spanish visit the CLADE website
ARGENTINA: Standing in solidarity with teachers following nationwide protests
Tens of thousands of teachers marched in the capital Buenos Aires in March as part of a nationwide strike challenging the administration of President Mauricio Macri. GCE’s Argentinean coalition La Campaña Argentina por el Derecho a la Educación (CADE) stands in solidarity with the country’s teachers in their struggle for the protection of public education.
On March 20th, a meeting of the committee ‘Por más y mejor educación’ (‘For More and Better Education’) was held in Buenos Aires, bringing together different organisations (including CADE), teachers, parents, students, and trade unions. They discussed proposals to put to the government. CADE demands, among other things, improvements to teachers’ working conditions and new legislation on education financing. Furthermore, it rejects current efforts by the authorities to devalue the role of the teacher, as well as budget cuts and threats to trade unionists in the education sector.
Members of the committee highlighted the concerning developments in the first year of Macri's presidential term, including a drastic reduction in the government’s plan to support young people and adults to complete their high-school studies and cuts to a project enhancing digital inclusion for students.
Last year, inflation rates reached 40% and provincial governments are offering pay increases that fall far short of the teachers’ demands. Maximiliano Estigarribia, from CADE, noted that it’s impossible to prioritise education without valuing teachers: "Well-paid teachers are the expression of a society that invests in education and invests in the future."
See here for more information on the ‘For More and Better Education’ committee (in Spanish)
COLOMBIA: Nobel Peace Prize laureate and GCE co-founder visits Colombia
In February, GCE’s national member Coalición Colombiana por el derecho a la Educación (Colombian Coalition for the Right to Education) and el Frente Amplio por la Educación, los Derechos y la Paz invited Nobel Peace Prize laureate and GCE co-founder Kailash Satyarthi to Bogota to coincide with the World Summit of Nobel Peace Prize Winners. Satyarthi spoke with young people and teachers and shared his experiences of his fight against child slavery around the world. He also shared details of his new global initiative – 100 million for 100 million. This ambitious campaign aims to mobilise 100 million youth and children for 100 million underprivileged children across the world, to promote the right of every child to be safe, free, and educated, over the next five years. You can find out more information on the campaign, including how to join, here.
More information on can be found in Spanish here
ECUADOR: GCE’s member organisation invites presidential candidates to declare for the right to education
The Contrato Social Por la Educación Ecuador (CSE), GCE’s Ecuadorian coalition has invited the two final presidential candidates to sign the ‘Citizen Education Agenda for Debate’ - a set of proposals for guaranteeing the right to quality education. These proposals include increasing investment in education and including civil society in policy debate and decisions. CSE believes they are imperative to fulfilling the right to education in Ecuador: “Education requires a profound change, and the next government must commit to it.”
You can view the agenda in full (in Spanish) here
HAITI: Civil society celebrates the new School Fees Act
In Haiti, almost all schools are privately run, making the role of campaigners for the right to education extremely difficult. However, a new law has been passed in Haiti regulating the payment of school fees and the rate at which private schools can increase fees. The new regulations require fees to be paid in local currency and prohibit schools from charging re-enrolment fees. More than seven years after being passed in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate of Haiti, the School Fees Act was finally sanctioned by the President, Jocelerme Privert, on January 3rd 2017. The approval of the law on school fees has been integral to all the activities of GCE’s Haitian coalition Regroupement Education pour Toutes/Tous (REPT). Together with other civil society organisations, teachers' unions, and large numbers of students and citizens, it has been campaigning on this issue since 2009. It’s fantastic that citizens’ voices are being heard and that years of sustained advocacy have paid off.
William Thélusmond, coordinator of REPT, declared this as a victory in the protection of the right to education:
“The time was right for a law impeding the impunity with which private school proprietors and head teachers could demand money from families. This new law goes against the profit motive of the great majority of them. We need to stay mobilised…. In conclusion, this law gives us a new tool in the fight, which is a victory”.
Click here for more information in Spanish
Click here for more information in English
PERU: Fighting for a gender-sensitive curriculum
The UN congratulated Peru last month for its new ‘rose-tinted’ education curriculum, in effect since 1st January, which aims to improve gender equality (in line with the new Sustainable Development Goal for education). Teachers are now being called on to challenge harmful stereotypes such as ‘women clean better; men are not sensitive; women are less able to learn maths and science; women are weaker and men are more irresponsible.’ Parts of the curriculum for secondary education had not been updated in decades, so this is a huge step forward on the road to equality.
However, the strong reaction of extreme conservative churches, politicians and parents’ associations against the new curriculum shows how the false ‘gender ideology’ has expanded in the country and reached all the way to the Congress. To fight against this misinformation and reaffirm the need of a non-discriminatory education and culture of peace, a new Platform for the Right to Education and Equality has recently been formed by teachers, researchers and different civil society organisations including GCE’s coalition the Campaña Peruana por el Derecho a la Educación (Peruvian Campaign for the Right to Education).
A public declaration signed by over a thousand citizens and organisations was submitted to the Ministry of Education, calling for collective recognition and respect of the right to equality for all citizens.
Madeleine Zuñiga from CPDE believes that this opportunity to build a fairer Peru must be celebrated.
“The backing the Education Ministry has received from the UN should be enough to show all Peruvians that we're on the right track. This new curriculum focuses on human rights, including gender equality and opportunities for all”. For Zuñiga, some of the traditional ‘values’ parents claim to espouse are based on discrimination and lies. "No-one has the right to educate children based on lies. And no-one has the right to deny respect to those who think differently."
ACROSS THE REGION
Diversity and Equality in Education: 15 days of activism against school-related gender-based violence.
March 15th marked the end of 15 days of activism by GCE’s regional members for Latin America and the Caribbean CLADE, in partnership with ALER, REPEM and Pressenza. This campaign marks an important step forward in the struggle for gender equality in and through education. School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a global phenomenon that impacts millions of children worldwide, especially girls. Plan International estimates that 246 million boys and girls fall victim to this each year. Furthermore, a report from UNESCO reveals that few countries in the world have developed policies to prevent and combat discrimination and violence by gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, particularly relating to the LGBTI community. Where policies do exist, there is still a huge gap between what’s enshrined in legislation and what actually happens on the ground. This is standing in the way of children and young people fully accessing their right to education.
See this article from CLADE for more (in Spanish)
1) Argentina protests 2017. Credit: Campaña Argentina por el Derecho a la Educación (CADE)
2) Brazil protests 2017. Credit: Lina Marinelli
3) Promotional picture for the film Dignité, co-produced by CLADE and Regroupement Education pour Toutes/Tous (REPT). Credit: Campaña Latinoamerican por el Derecho a la Educación (CLADE)