Education students radicalize their actions in Oaxaca

By Santiago Navarro F.
Agencia SubVersiones
March 17, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

After nearly a month of protests, members of the Oaxaca State Coordinating Body of Education Students (CENEO) have radicalized their actions. On February 3, they presented a list of 21 demands to educational authorities, not one of which has been resolved.

The protests have included: marches, blockades of streets and main thoroughfares, the taking of toll booths to allow motorists to pass freely, the commandeering of public buses – which they use to transport themselves – as well as of trucks carrying goods from multinational corporations, whose products have been distributed to people nearby and to those waiting for their sick relatives outside of public hospitals.

On March 13, negotiations were to be held between the education students and members of the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education. The students warned the authorities that if negotiations were cancelled, the students would intensify their actions. As that is exactly what happened, the students took over the institute’s building, kicking out of the workers and spraying graffiti on the inside of the buildings and on official vehicles, as well as burning tires and documents.

Among the main demands of the eleven education schools which comprise the CENEO, is that of “mileage scholarships,” which is to say, financial support for students in their final years to pay for transportation to the communities where they carry out their work.

They are also against the education reform, as the standards for evaluation don’t take into account the majority of students in Oaxaca, most of whom are indigenous and whose first language is not Spanish. Similarly, they mention the material conditions mandated by this reform, whereas in Oaxaca there are schools with teachers who teach multiple grades, where only one teacher gives classes to several groups of students and at the same time is the school’s principal.

“We are in disagreement with this reform, and not because we are afraid of being evaluated. There are students who don’t even speak Spanish and they want to introduce English. There is marginalization and poverty. It’s not the same to evaluate a student from Monterrey as it is a student from an indigenous community in Oaxaca,” says Miriam Martínez, spokeswoman for the press and propaganda portfolio – or commission – of the CENEO.

Likewise, another student from the Tamazulapan rural education school, who didn’t want to give her name, tells the SubVersiones team that they are unhappy with the reform because the government has not bothered to inform the public, that there are indigenous communities that don’t know what a reform is and therefore don’t know that at some point they will have to pay for the education of their children, referencing the euphemistically-called “autonomous self-management.” The students are concerned that information about the reform is not flowing and therefore people still can’t grasp that they will have to pay for their children’s education; when there are communities where teachers have had to convince parents to send their children to school.

“There are two graduated classes of compañeros who are already working under this reform, which deals with matters in a way that is inconsistent for communities where there isn’t even electricity and there is a lot of attrition because the students have to go to work in the fields,” says Miriam, who also notes that the majority of the education students have firsthand knowledge of these conditions, as a good part of them come from rural communities where there is extreme poverty.

The students remain on alert for possible repression and act with caution around the media; they don’t approach any journalist without first covering their faces, as they know that when there is repression there is also persecution and selective harassment.

The more than 3,000 students say that if there is not an immediate solution, they are going to intensify their actions even further. For the moment, in the Regional Center of Education Schools of Oaxaca, more than 15 trucks belonging to different companies such as Bimbo, Sabritas, Danone, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and two ADO buses are being held. At the last minute they alerted us that there is already an eviction order against them and they are prepared with various security details to prevent the entry of anyone who is not a CENEO student.