Teachers across Spain walked out of work yesterday in protest at education spending cuts, erecting makeshift tombs at university campuses to symbolise the death of the country’s schooling system.
Union officials said that around 80% of the country’s teachers supported the protest with teachers of all levels in 14 of Spain’s regions joining the strike, the largest so far this year.
In contrast, the Education Ministry claimed a much lower turnout suggesting only 19% of teachers walked out. They also praised the ones that did turn up to teach.
Mariano Rajoy’s government has introduced a range of austerity measures and spending cuts to try and rein in their escalating deficit. The education sector has been hit by 3 billion euros of cuts which translates into fewer teachers, a higher teacher-student ratio and fewer extra-curricular activities.
One student dressed up as the Grim Reaper as he marched with other protesters.
“For us, the university so far has been a place of knowledge, that’s our idea of the university. Now it’s becoming a place of recruiting armies of workers,” he said.
Virginia Fernandez, a representative of the Madrid branch of the teachers union FETE, said a lot of parents even at the primary school level had kept their kids home in a show of support for the strike.
“Families are really getting involved,” she said. “There is major involvement in all of the education community.”
However, I think she may be looking through rose tinted glasses as I was told a different story by parents affected by the strike.
“When I collected my child from school on Monday the teachers advised me not to bring my child the following morning as there was unlikely to be sufficient staff”, one unhappy mother told me.
“I have to take a day’s holiday when my daughter is home from school. I have already taken some this year because of other strikes. I can’t strike and it’s unacceptable and disruptive when the teachers do so”, she added.