High school students in Haiti have taken to the streets in their thousands in the capital Port au Prince.
They are frustrated by the closure of schools, caused by a week long teachers’ strike and are demanding that the government responds to their teachers’ demands.
The teachers are demanding a promised 30 – 50% pay rise, which has still not been paid, as well as better working conditions and more materials for teaching.
The government has instituted a ‘Universal Free and Compulsory Education Programme’ (PSUGO), derided by the students who chanted: ‘PSUGO is demagoguery’. They and many other Haitians say that the claims of the government that over one million children are enrolled in the programme are a fantasy. As one website put it the claims are made, ‘without building a single new school, without training a single new teacher, and without increasing the capacity of education colleges to train teachers.’
In January of this year the teachers went on strike because they were owed months of back pay. Moreover the latest strike is part of a long struggle by the teachers not only for fair salaries for themselves, but also for health programmes like cholera immunisation and proper funding for schools – many of them are coping with makeshift buildings or even tents and containers. The lack of spending on strong buildings was one of the main causes of the thousands of casualties in the devastating earthquake of 2010.
As though Haiti had not got enough problems, it has also been subject to the attentions of arch US education ‘reformer’ Paul Vallas, who brought in anti-union and privatisation policies – just the sort of ‘reforms’ which he instituted after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in the US. Recently, Vallas visited Haiti along with US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who opined that what Haiti needed to spend more of its education budget on, was data collection and standardised testing. This under conditions where many schools don’t have toilets or even walls and many pupils sleep on the street. As a Washington Post writer wryly commented, ‘Nothing a good data system can’t help.’
Solidarity with school students has been one of the features of the long struggle for public education in Haiti , who have often, as on this occasion, come out onto the streets to support their teachers’ demands and campaign for public education.
Other stories of teacher’s campaigns around the world
Costa Rica May 5th Teachers started an indefinite strike because 7000 of their number have not been paid
China May 7th Teachers in Quinghai province have taken to the streets in protest against discrimination against them and the use of temporary contracts to depress their wages
Nigeria May 8th Abuja is in lockdown for the World Economic Forum, while the abducted schoolgirls are still missing and teachers are starving in Benue State as they fight for a minimum wage
Nepal May 9th Teachers closed down schools after being attacked by police as they demonstrated peacefully for permanent contracts
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