Internacional/International Noticias/News

Strikes at the federal universities is already one of the largest in the last few years

Written by PSTU – Brasil
Monday, 11 June 2012 18:37

On May 17, the faculty from Brazilian federal universities started a strong strike which is currently affecting about 50 institutions around the country, and it is already one of the biggest strike movements of recent years in the university education sector.

From the beginning, the strike in federal institutions has surprised everybody by the widespread adherence, with more than 30 institutions’ participation from the very first day.

Besides the students’ support, the strike has reached the federal institutions and sectors that are usually resistant to strike movements. It is not difficult to understand the outrage that hits the university community. The teachers are pushed to an outdated career plan and the government is indifferent to their needs, while the federal universities are literally falling apart, with a scrapped infrastructure and shortage of teachers.
The situation is so dramatic that, according to the Andes-SN (National Union of Institutions of Higher Education’s Teachers), the 2012 school year beginning  was suspended or delayed in several courses due to lack of conditions at various universities. “There are institutions with no teachers, no laboratories, no classrooms, no university dining halls or restaurants, without even drinking water and toilet paper”, says an open letter from the union to the population.

In addition to the widespread adherence of teachers, the strike at the federal universities also counts on massive support from students. On May 29 a historic meeting at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), the largest federal university in the country, brought together around 2000 students, who approved the student strike for improvements in the education conditions. Students of 20 federal universities would have already enacted student strike. 

Government negligence

Dilma Rousseff’s government and the Education Ministry are not only the responsible ones for the precarious situation of the federal universities, but they have also treated the strike and the teachers’ and students’ demands with total disregard. On last May 25 the Planning Ministry representative appointed to negotiate with the teachers, simply canceled the meeting scheduled for that day, without any justification. It would be the first meeting with the government since the strike began. But the Minister of Education, Aloizio Mercadante just attacks the strike and urges the teachers to return to work in the media, but refuses to open up a dialogue with the teachers.

The indignation of the teachers arises partially from the fact that the government had signed in 2011 an agreement in which it commits itself to reaching a new career plan until March 31, 2012. However, after that date, nothing had been done. Devaluation of the teaching career in public universities affects the quality of teaching and, along with the precariousness caused by the successive cuts in the budget, deepens the crisis of Education. Besides that there are new campi opened without the least infrastructure, following the approval in 2007 of REUNI (Program for Restructuring and Expansion of Federal Universities) which imposed the increase in the number of vacancies in the federal institutions without the consequent increase in university endowments. Result: overcrowded classrooms, students without either classrooms or teachers and lack of basic materials.

The strike is a response to the plan for dismantling the public university imposed by successive governments that, since FHC (Fernando Henrique Cardoso), have been applying the plans of international organizations such as UN, World Bank and WTO, in order to meet the demands of the capital in crisis,” said Claudia Durans, teacher of UFMA (Federal University of Maranhão), explaining that such plans provide for“relaxation and dissociation between teaching, research and extension, diversification in teaching modalities (sequencing courses, interchangeability between bachelor and teaching degrees[1]), distance learning, advancement of privatization plans, as Prouni, favoring the large economic groups, and the very degradation of working conditions as well as the academic and qualification activities development.. “

To unify the struggles

 “It is important to move forward in unifying the strike with the administrative technicians of federal universities who have programmed to start their strike on June 11, as well as to reaffirm the unity with the students,”says Durans. Entities such as Andes-SN, Fasubra (Federation of Unions of Workers of Brazilian Public Universities) and ANEL (National Student Assembly-Free) call for a National March in favor of Education Improvement for June 5th in Brasilia[2], demanding the attendance of the Education workers’ claims as well as the Education improvement, including the requirement for allocation of 10% of GDP for Education.

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[1] In Brazil there are specific courses for teaching that demand learning special content on didactics.

[2]Which has been realized with the participation of 15 thousand service public workers.

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La Voz De Los Trabajadores/Workers Voice is a revolutionary socialist organization. We are the sympathizing organization of the International Workers League (LIT-CI) in the United States. We formed in California in 2008 around the struggles of the immigrant working class & the fight for militant, democratic trade unions and other workers’ and people’s organizations that defend the principle of class independence.

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