A student rally in Barcelona in the past. Will there be a repeat in the September school opening
this year, in the midst of a looming pandemic resurgence?
by Jack Wright
A nationwide student strike is convened on 16, 17 and 18 September not only to protest against what the Student Syndicate (Sindicato de Estudiantes) thinks is the inadequate plan to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 in schools, but also to pressure the Government to strengthen the public school system. To “rescue” public education, they are demanding an investment equal to 7% of GDP, “the same amount that the Government has handed over to the major companies and the banks on Ibex 35.” The Student syndicate, as the organizer of the strike, argues that “if there is money for the banks, there has to be the same for public education.” Ibex 35 is the benchmark stock market index of the Bolsa de Madrid, the largest and most important among Spain’s four regional stock exchanges.
The Student Syndicate advocates in-class learning. But in order for students to return to the classrooms, the environment has to be “secure and in decent condition”. Accordingly, there can’t be more than 15 students to a classroom, they claim. New school buildings must be built, and old ones fixed up.
Due to the conditions created by the pandemic, personalized teaching is a must. As per the data in the hands of the Comisiones Obreras labor union (CC.OO), 165,000 new teachers, or a 33% increase in the current teaching force across the country, is necessary to ensure personalized teaching.
New healthcare personnel, psychologists, canteen workers and cleaners are to be hired with all the vested rights of a public staff.
The Government must not only provide PPEs and sanitizers in the school but must also put an end the digital gap through massive distribution of digital devices, as well as provide free digital training for the students, teachers and families.
On 17 September, in the middle of the strike, the Student Syndicate is calling on all concerned to join demonstrations and rallies in cities across the country.
The strike, as the Student Syndicate would have it, involves junior high and high school, as well as vocational training students but not college students because classes in many campuses will not have started yet at the time. Moreover, the Student Syndicate claims it is in the lower schools where education is appalling.
But not all agree with the Student Syndicate. Some unions are not answering the call. ANPE, the majority union in the sphere of public education, is against the strike, saying that it is not what the schools in these times of health crisis need: “We do not want to deprive our students their right to education.” However, ANPE demand that the measures established by health authorities be implemented. In case of failure to do so, the syndicate will ask that the schools concerned be closed, “rather than jeopardize the health of the entire (school) community.”
The Education branch of the CSIF (Confederación Sindical Independiente de Funcionarios) prefers dialogue and negotiation to staging strike, but does not discard demonstrations entirely.
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