From “Cambray, resign” to “sack him”. This Thursday, those at the head of the march were clear about the messages they wanted to chant. Today, for the third day in a row, Catalan teachers filled the streets of Barcelona to protest against the department of education's management. While in recent days it has been emphasized that the educational community is not only protesting against the changed school calendar, but also against the cutbacks the sector has put up with since the economic crisis, today the unions gave the message that they want the Catalan president, Pere Aragonès, to be their new interlocutor, and not the education minister, Josep Gonzàlez-Cambray. In fact, they have made a formal request to the government for a meeting with the head of the Catalan executive.
However, Aragonès had already responded to this request from Germany, where he is on an official visit. He was quick to exclude himself as an interlocutor with the education unions, and said that the person who has "the expertise, knowledge and confidence" to engage in dialogue with the educational community is the ministry led by Cambray, with "the whole government by its side." He insisted that the minister has his full support to generate the "best possible accords". The fact is that both sides say they want to sit down and negotiate, but at present there is no agreement. Before the demonstration began on Thursday, the spokeswoman for the USTEC union, Iolanda Segura, said that the teachers wanted to "deescalate" the situation and reach an agreement with the government in order to leave the streets.
10,000 protesters, again
Monday marked the start of five days of strike during March. That day, 22,000 people demonstrated in the centre of Barcelona, according to city police. And this Thursday, the police have reported that the number of protesters remains the same as on Wednesday: about 10,000 people. The remaining two days of this strike will take place on March 29th and 30th, but before that there is also a separate one stoppage on March 23rd against the imposition of Spanish language for 25% of classroom time.
In contrast to the clearly-high turnout for the protests, the Catalan department of education has asserted this morning that the proportion of teachers who are observing the strike in public schools was less than 10% today; that is, less than on Wednesday. Despite that, teachers and professors once again managed to give a new show of strength, in a march that filled Via Laietana from Plaça Urquinaona to Plaça de l’Àngel, from where the march entered Plaça Sant Jaume, the final destination of this mobilization.
“"It's not about five days of holiday”
The protesters are pushing the message that the issue of the school calendar change is just the tip of the iceberg. One of the most popular chants these days is "It's not five days of vacation, it's ten years of cuts." The situation in the classrooms is critical, say the unions, and schools need more staff and more funding to ensure good education for their students. There is also another issue that angered the educational community: the new curriculum. However, despite the announcement yesterday from minister Cambray that schools can postpone its application for a year if they wish to do so, the unions insist that this is a "useless" manoeuvre that will not stop them from taking to the streets.