Roberto Baradel is a teacher and deputy general secretary of the Confederation of Education Workers of Argentina (CTERA). He is also a member of the Confederation of Argentinian Educators (CEA). A tireless advocate for public education and union rights, Baradel is a prominent figure in the fight for education justice in Latin America. In this interview for Worlds of Education, he shares his perspectives on current challenges and reaffirms the importance of international solidarity in defending public education and human rights across the globe.
Q: What is your view on the impact of the current government in Argentina on human rights and democracy?
A: Today in Argentina, we sadly find ourselves in a difficult situation where a far-right government has come to power. The far-right government of Javier Milei is a danger to democracy in Argentina. [Moreover], it belongs to the revisionist sector of Argentinian society. They deny that the civil-military dictatorship of 1976 was a genocide, despite being recognised in Argentinian law and globally as being one.
Specifically, for example, they want to release all the perpetrators of genocidal acts who are serving sentences for the crimes against humanity they committed. Another ultra-liberal sector of society argues that only the laws of the market should govern the social, political, and economic life of a country and of the State.
The Security Minister, who was Security Minister in the government that persecuted us, has drawn up measures that practically prevents and criminalises social protest, as well as hindering mobilisations. It clearly states that organisations and their leaders will be sanctioned if acts are carried out on a massive scale and block any street. All security forces can intervene to sanction mobilisations. Why? Because they are implementing an austerity plan, a brutal adjustment plan. Unfortunately, they are aiming to transfer resources to sectors where there is a greater concentration of wealth and therefore, they are trying to prevent the people, organisations, and unions from protesting.
In addition, the protocol has a particularly dangerous characteristic. The previous government had established a protocol where security forces could not supress demonstrations using lethal weapons. Well, unfortunately, this government has just authorised the use of lethal weapons by the security forces to suppress social protest.
Q: What is the state of education and what is your role in the current situation?
A: We are facing significant challenges regarding maintaining and improving our public education system. For example, the new government immediately eliminated the Ministry of Education. They said there was no need for a Ministry of Education. They also eliminated the Ministry of Labour.
The current administration has already reduced investment in public education, which is having a negative impact on teachers and students. My work, together with my colleagues in CTERA, is to demand greater government investment in public education and to fight for fair working conditions for education workers. We defend public education as a fundamental human right.
They advocate for property as an absolute value. Specifically, this means property is above the right to life, except their own life and that of their families.
And I believe this is the most significant danger we face; that these processes will become further entrenched and end up destroying freedoms and life, as well as the possibility of fighting for, building and imagining a life worth living for everyone, not just for the sector of society that is privileged and where wealth is concentrated.
Q: What impact has the current economic situation had on the Argentinian public education system and its teachers?
A: The economic situation has been devastating for teachers. Inflation and budget cuts have reduced real wages, affecting the standard of living of teachers and, consequently, the quality of education. Our struggle is not only for labour rights but also for the right of every student to quality education.
Q: How has international solidarity contributed to the fight to defend public education in Argentina?
A: International solidarity is a lifeline. The support of Education International, especially when we are being threatened and under attack, such as when my family and I were threatened, has been invaluable. It has provided us with moral support and resources, making us stronger and reminding us that we are not alone in the fight for the right to education and the rights of education workers.
Q: How important is it to fight for public education and support the teaching profession?
A: Public education is central to building citizenship and democracy. It is essential for young people to be able to fully develop and for us to build fairer and more equitable societies. The Education International campaign Go Public! Fund Education calls for greater government investment in education and for the teaching profession to be respected worldwide.
Q: What message would you give to teachers, education personnel and activists defending public education across the world?
A: I want to send a message of hope and unity. Despite the challenges, we must continue united in the fight for public education. This struggle is for the future; it is a struggle for the fundamental right to education. Public education is fundamental to building democratic and fair societies, and we must protect and strengthen it.
In this regard, we look forward to welcoming you to Argentina for Education International’s Congress in July 2024 so we can continue building citizenship and unity, and so we can continue to organise to defend public schools. We will continue to "Go Public!" With unity of action, we can achieve an increase in public funding for education and build a more decent world for everyone
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.