Latin America: Social dialogue and quality public policies to overcome the COVID-19 crisis
The Regional Committee of Education International Latin America (EILA) has prepared a declaration regarding the safe reopening of schools in the region.
The declaration was issued following an agreement reached at the recent meeting of the EILA Regional Committee and the Council of Presidents and/or General Secretaries, which includes all member organisations of Education International in the region.
It condemns the way in which priority is being given to restoring economic activity, and consequently the resumption of educational activities, without the minimum conditions necessary to ensure the safety of students and teachers. One of the key conditions, notably absent in most countries other than Argentina, is in fact to engage in dialogue with trade unions to determine the various stages in planning for the return to the classroom. Furthermore, the declaration denounces the lack of measures for “listening to the proposals of the organised student sectors, so that they can participate in defining these stages”.
In addition, coordination between the teaching sector, public universities and public research sectors is needed to determine ways to support virtual and/or distance education, as well as to place limits on private profiting from the promotion of virtual platforms.
Other key demands from teachers in Latin America include basic supplies such as soap, water and medical kits, as well as infrastructures that enable social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus in schools.
Given the economic crisis generated by the pandemic, there is a call to support school meal facilities, to guarantee free and/or discounted public transport for students, and to provide educational materials for students who do not have access to the internet.
During the pandemic, the private sector, in particular, is urged to protect teaching jobs and respect wage agreements.
The statement specifically addresses the governments of Chile and Colombia, which, despite being deeply impacted by the pandemic, are allocating “scarce state resources to subsidise private companies linked to the business of standardised assessments”. The declaration also discusses how to adequately finance health, employment and public education, emphasising the importance of implementing progressive tax reforms, promoting the elimination or renegotiation of the foreign debt of Latin American countries, and relaunching public works, among other measures.
Finally, the declaration reiterates the demand for all Latin American governments to implement a national universal basic income that guarantees all households sufficient income to meet their basic needs. The full text of the declaration can be found here