Did the Government comply with its promises with public education?

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On October 11, 2018, a student strike began, lasted for 2 months and ended with several promises by President Duque. Has the promise been fulfilled?

Did the Government comply with its promises with public education?

"For me, the agreement was not historic. History was the student movement, the struggle. But the pact was a stick that we put to the wheel of financing". These were the words of Professor Raúl Cuadros of the Pedagogical University during an exclusive interview for Latinamerican Post about the current state of the student agreement with the Colombian National Government.

Leer en español: ¿Cumplió el Gobierno con sus promesas con la educación pública?

Based on the latest mobilization of public universities, which convened a national strike on October 11 to express their dissatisfaction with the deficit that now reaches approximately 18.2 billion Colombian pesos, thousands of students, teachers, members of the National Indigenous Organization, teachers of FECODE, part of the SENA union and some private universities marched for more than 66 days demanding a solution.

Last December, the current government of President Iván Duque and the student movement managed to reach an agreement in which public education funds would be increased by 4.5 billion Colombian pesos.

But what is the current state of public universities?

According to the Minister of Education, María Victoria Angulo, the Colombian State will work in the next four years to optimize the resources of public education. This increase in the budget will strengthen the universities and provide job stability for teachers. Well, according to the president, have responded to his claim of historical debts "giving education the highest budget".

Analyzing in more detail the points of the agreement of this financial increase, a percentage (1.34 trillion Colombian pesos) will be allocated to the budget base, where a part is destined to pay the payroll of the teachers and according to the statements of the Colombian State, this will allow formalizing the teachers.

However, considering the current reality, 70% and 80% of public higher education teachers are professors or lecturers. Based on the experience of the teacher of the Pedagogic University Raúl Cuadros, who has been a public trainer for 10 years; Historically, universities have been reluctant to provide part of this budget to formalize teachers.

Since in reality, this will depend on the strength that teachers put to start it: "the truth is that Universities do not have the best availability to formalize a teacher. In other words, this is very uncertain, "he said.

On the other hand, 250 billion Colombian pesos will also be allocated to provide doctoral scholarships in order to better prepare public trainers. However, for Professor Raúl Cuadros, there are priorities that should be addressed more urgently: "That 70 or 80% of occasional teachers, have not even solved the health problem during the year. There are four months where they do not have social security, neither they nor their children. They reach the age of pension and only very few are able to retire. For me that is more or less a ruse, to spend the money on that when the basic problems have not solved them. That is a wrong decision, "he said.

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On infrastructure issues, the situation is quite dramatic

Looking more closely at the deficit of 15 billion Colombian pesos, the student classrooms are abandoned by the State. According to Luis Fernando Sierra, a student of the ninth semester of the Bachelor of Visual Arts of the Pedagogical University, the lack of infrastructure has always been a strong point to the lack of resources :

"Block A is a building that has been maintenance-free for more than eight years, the walls of the second floor are already deteriorated due to humidity. In addition, there are no conducive facilities to bring people together. I speak from my experience in the degree, where there are rooms that are suitable for twenty people, but we are usually an average of forty-five", he said.

In addition, the diversion of resources from public to private universities is evident. This was stated by Professor Raúl Cuadros: "I think there is a historical process of funding public universities with the intention of destroying them, because while private universities, such as the Andes or the Javeriana, grow and grow in infrastructure; we in the art department, we do not even have the essentials".

Taking into account all these anomalies that, although they do not differ much from the rest of the country's public universities, it is here where many wonder if those 66 days of student resistance will really bear fruit.

"We managed to put on the national scene, the truth of the problem, the public needs. The process of financing was halted in part".

For the teacher and spokesman of the student movement Raúl Cuadros, despite the fact that there is still a long way to go; having played an important political role during the marches period, studying the political and economic problems of the conflict; supporting students through permanent assemblies; He managed to give a little relief to public universities. So the road is still long, thanks to the collective struggle, the Government will be forced to respond to the basic needs of public education in the country.

The agreement is just the first part of the solution

Although the collective struggle managed to lighten the situation, the task is only beginning because according to the teacher's experience, one of the most viable ways to solve this crisis in education is a fundamental transformation: "For me there is that curb the policy of defunding public universities to continue diverting resources to private universities. The entity of ICETEX as a private bank, as an entity of the State, that collects money and forces people to go to private universities. That has to change radically. We would have to triple the amount with a constant increase, say each year, "he said.

In addition, looking at the cases of the rest of Latin American countries, in nations such as Brazil and Argentina the collective interest in education is evident. since they are States that have managed to build public universities, while in Colombia hardly survive those that exist.

The goal is to have education, as the Constitution affirms, as a fundamental right and not a privilege.


LatinAmerican Post | Julieta Gutiérrez

Copy edited by Juliana Suárez