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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 3, Nov./Dec. 2006

International news

Retirees teach English in Cuba

The BCTF International Solidarity Program supports two programs for teaching English in Cuba—one for retirees and the other for active members.

ESL Cuba volunteer is for retired educators prepared to donate their talents and skills to teach Cubans English. Volunteers pay their own costs while on the island for three weeks. Part of the time is spent working either with university students or with young children.

The program runs twice next year, from February 3 to 24, 2007, and again in November. Details of this program are available on the web at www.cubavolunteer.com.

The BCTF Cuba ESL Teacher In-service Project sends teams of BCTF members with second-language experience to offer eight-day in-service programs for Cuban secondary school teachers during December and July holidays. Project members for this year are in place. If you are interested in applying, watch for an ad in a future edition of Teacher.

Five-month strike in Oaxaca ends

Teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, spent more than 150 days on strike from May to October this year. The strike started with demands for the government to provide textbooks and food for children at school, as well as salary increases of more than the 7% offered. It soon expanded to civil disobedience in support of social demands by indigenous and other community organizations that had joined the teachers.

Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico and has a large indigenous population. Many children are not in school because their families cannot afford any fees—or even to feed their children. The teachers are also among the poorest paid in Mexico.

The situation was very volatile. On October 18, gunmen shot and killed Panfilo Hernandez, a preschool teacher, as he stepped out of a meeting with other teachers and members of the APPO, the community-based assembly, in the Jardín neighbourhood of Oaxaca City. Hernandez was the ninth person to be assassinated during the conflict.

With only some of their demands met, the teachers felt they had to vote to return to school in late October. The government promised a 30% salary increase over six years and to drop criminal charges against some 300 union leaders. Teachers will extend school hours to make up some of the lost instruction time during the strike. Oaxaca teachers’ union leader Enrique Rueda Pacheco said Friday that the decision to return to work was based not on pressure from [national union head, Esther] Gordillo or the federal government but from "the commitment we have to the children of Oaxaca.’’

Despite returning to school, the teachers’ union will continue to call for the replacement of the governor who escalated the strike by sending in masses of police to break up a peaceful occupation of the central square in the city.

For an update on the status of the situation with teachers in Oaxaca, check the international solidarity section of the BCTF web site.

– Larry Kuehn

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