|Written by Administrator|
|Tuesday, 28 June 2011 20:04|
|Teacher Amanda Gurgel’s blunt speech in a video posted in YouTube went viral and turned to be a phenomenon in social networks, in the Internet and has led to a national uproar. The teacher born in Rio Grande do Norte (Brazil Northeast) denounced, using simple and straightforward wording, the education chaos in the State she lives and across the country.
But why something seemingly so simple caused such a fuss?
The answer lies in the fact that thousands of teachers, parents, students and the population identified themselves with Teacher Amanda Gurgel’s words. Brazilian population is deeply concerned about the chaos in Education, about the overcrowded classrooms, the lack of infrastructure and the teachers’ low wages. This scenario has been, since a long time, in need of someone who could clearly express the discontentment of everybody involved somehow with the Educational system. Amanda Gurgel did it.
Read Amanda Gurgel’s interview
Teacher Amanda Gurgel responds to interviews the same way she speaks in the video which was seen by more than a million people: simple, straightforward and authentic. The activist is interviewed below by theOpinião Socialista newspaper about the phenomenon in social networks, the teachers’ plight and about her militancy in PSTU.
Opinião Socialista–When was the video recorded and what are the reasons for such a huge impact?
Amanda Gurgel– The video was recorded during a meeting about Education in the Legislative Assembly of Rio Grande do Norte. I signed up to talk when the chairperson of the meeting signaled with this possibility. My words caused that huge impact because they were addressed to the Education Secretary, to the House of Representatives’ members, people to whom ordinary people are not used to address because they feel embarrassed. Other reason, I suppose, is the emotional burden embedded in the matter, because this is something I witness in my daily routine and, finally, the teachers’ lack of representation all over Brazil. Since the Unions’ leaderships keep strong liaisons with the government, the teachers all over the country feel they are increasingly misrepresented.When there is someone who really speaks for them, they feel they are being represented.
How did you find out the video was making such a huge impact on the Internet?
After the Audience I received a call from teacher, whom I had not met yet, saying he had managed to turn the video into a file that could be shared and he asked permission to post it on YouTube. I authorized him and the next day the video had gone viral. By that time I still haven’t figured out about its true dimensions. Two days later, we had a teacher’s meeting, and people came to congratulate, to take pictures. And I didn’t understand what was happening, because, till then, I had not participated in any social network.
Teachers of Rio Grande do Norte are on strike, talk alittle about the situation of Education there.
We are on strike because we have no choice; given the situation we have been facing. Just to explain, when the school term started, there were only half of the needed teachers in the school I teach.There were not enough desks and till now they are lacking. When there are examinations and all students come to the classes, teachers have to split the groups. And the school I work for is not the worst one. In Ceará Mirim city, the Fire Department has closed one of the schools because it had no operating conditions. Its roof was collapsing; the electrical system was in ruins. Teachers and students in the bathroom running the risk to be electrocuted! It is a general chaos!
How does the teachers’ sector respond to that? Is there any discouragement?
Yes, there is. Nobody studies to be a teacher dreaming about taking three buses to get to the workplace. It is unthinkable to live in the north outskirt of the town andwork in the south outskirt. But this is the reality. When it rains, the street I live is cut off by floods and I can’t afford living in a better place. And finally, when we are graduating we don’t know that we will not be offered even the basic conditions to work. We can even dream of being a teacher, but not under these circumstances. It is obvious that people feel discouraged. But I also notice strong signals of persistence.And this moment, to the sector and especially to me, has been a shot in the arm. I am looking forward to going back to school and meet the students again.I am looking forward to returning to the classroom.
Teachers are one of the groups most affected by occupational diseases. Can you notice it in your day-to-day?
Yes, I can do it all the time. Teachers suffer from psychosomatic illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, burnout…In addition to that they suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, problems related to their vocal cords.The government puts pressure on us so that teachers do not leave the classroom, regardless of their health condition, because for the government it is important that children are kept in the classroom, well controlled. No matter if they are learning or not.
To what do you attribute the chaos of education?
To the progressive reduction of investments. We know that the policies of the international financial institutions (WB, IMF) require increasingly smaller investments in public education for the developing countries. So obviously, the result will be the chaos we currently see. Without investment, there can be no quality. How are we going to change that if the budget proposed by the government in the new National Education Plan progresses slowly up to 7% of GDP in ten years? As it stands, the prospects for change are virtually nil. That’s why we’re calling a great movement via the Internet, with the aim to reach the streets, demanding an immediate raise of the public education budget to10%of GDP.We cannot wait any longer.
What is the solutionfor public education?
I have said that we must turn this entire affliction into action. This means we have to take to the streets. We need to link this current Internet frenzy, we cannot underestimate it, to our movement on the streets, to the mass movements, because History has proven that this is the way it works, this is the way that puts pressure on governments.
Your sector is mostly female. Have you noticed any traces of sexism?
Yes, I have.Women’s oppression is a reality everywhere. Our womanhood as a teacher is even more complex, because women still are the ones who do the household chores. So, many female teachers work three shifts a day and when they get home at 11:00 pm they have to cook the next day lunch for their children and her husband.
Does the fact that you area woman from the Northeast of Brazil  contribute to raise otherissues?
I think so. Setting aside some useless comments on YouTube, there are many supporting messages from all regions of Brazil. But I think that the Northeast women are feeling represented. As soon as I left the “Faustão” TV show I receiveda lot of heartening messages from my friends and colleagues who were gathered together telling me I was the best representative they could have, because I am “a teacher, Northeastern and a strong woman”.
How did you start your political activism and how did you meet PSTU?
I met the party while I was in college. I was an activist in the student movement and was close to PT (Worker’s Party, a reformist party, currently in power).At that time I had an aversion to PSTU. After I graduated and started participating in the teachers’ struggle I realized how shameful were the leadership actions, whose Union was then ruled by PT and PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil, a Stalinist oriented party that supports PT’s government), and how wide open was their promiscuity in relation to the government. So very early I had already declared myself as an oppositionist, but I was not sure about what it really meant. People used to come and say: “you’re an oppositionist,” and I asked to myself “but what is to be at the opposition?”…There were many Union opposition groups, but gradually I defined my position. I positioned myself with CSP-Conlutas first. I approached the PSTU later, when I realized how its militants were dedicated to the workers’ fight. I reflected that waiting a strike to perform any activity in support of workers was a very comfortable situation for me, while those militants had been struggling every day. I thought it was my duty to share this task with them, with my comrades of Natal (Rio Grande do Norte state’s capital), whom I admire a lot and am very proud of. The Northeast of Brazil is one of the less developed regions of the country, but famous for the bravery of its people.  Programa do Faustão: one of the most-watched live TV shows on Sundays in Brazil, where Amanda was invited to be interviewed.  CSP-Conlutas: National Federation of Trade Unions and Popular organizations, which defends the class independence against the governments and the bourgeoisie.
Watch the video where Teacher Amanda Gurgel denounces the education chaos in Rio Grande do Norte and across Brazil.