Shamed and Shaved: Mexican teachers and education reforms

The United States is on a hullabaloo because of their upcoming national elections in November, with the primaries taking place left and right

South of them, in Mexico, the people are facing a dilemma of their own. For almost three years now, the teachers have stood out in the streets in protest of the education reforms decreed by President Enrique Peña Nieto. Unfortunately the protests became out of hand.

Last week, up to 14 protesters, administrator and head teachers were forced to walk barefoot through the town of Comitan, wearing placards on their necks which brand them as “traitors of the state.”

Afterwards, their heads were shaved publicly, while a crowd of people stood and watched (some even taking photos or videos).

The people who are behind this horrible act are allegedly members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), a faction of the Mexican teachers’ union.

With CNTE now under fire, they claim that agents from the president’s political party infiltrated their ranks and did the public shaming, disclaiming any part in the shaming whatsoever.

What have the teachers done to be in such disgraceful situation?

They were simply denied a protest in the town and nothing more.

Education secretary Aurelio Nuno decries this and is now working with prosecutors to exonerate those responsible.

Even with around two million teachers, Mexico places low in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), making education a hot and sensitive topic in the country. Some studies show that if this continues, it would take approximately 77 years for Mexico to be in par with the developed countries.

A vital part of the reform is the central reason of the protests all around Mexico. The new law requires teachers to take evaluation tests every four years. Should they fail, they can take the exam at up to three times, or they will be fired.

Since its conception, CNTE and its sister union, the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) were in charge of teacher employment throughout the country, from hiring them up to classroom assignments in all levels.

Through this, even the poorest teachers are assured of a job. Though this cause cronyism and became a major problem.  Hence, the reforms. Now, anyone with a teaching degree can apply regardless of status and residence.

Public shaving of teachers also happened in 2015. Photos and videos of the recent one stormed the social media and gained a lot of sympathies from netizens, for most of the victims were aged, tenure teachers, saying they must be treated with respect.(Luke Godoy)

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