PM and wife in intense encounter with intransigent teachers
The National Teachers Federation (Fenprof) has today distanced itself from what it calls the “insults and acts of populism” that marked Portugal Day celebrations in Peso da Régua.
“In the middle of the ceremony, a group of about a dozen teachers wearing t-shirts with distasteful caricatures of Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and (education minister) João Costa and holding up placards with a distorted image of António Costa, who had a pencil stuck in each eye, appeared at the spot where Fenprof was”, said a statement sent out to news rooms.
“Later, this group followed the prime minister for many minutes (see below).
“Fenprof disagrees with those images, considering that in order to demand respect it is necessary to know how to respect.
“If fighting is also teaching, insults and populism cannot be used as weapons. Images like those that were shown do not dignify the teachers or their just fight”, the federation went on.
The nitty gritty however remains the same. There is “a serious problem” of a lack of teachers in schools, which Fenprof attributes to the lack of value given to the profession, reiterating that it will continue to fight for the “respect” its professionals deserve.
“From the Prime Minister we only heard the usual: that he was the one who unfroze the career, a statement that seems to mean that keeping careers frozen is normal and unfreezing them something extraordinary.
“What is extraordinarily negative is that teachers progress to levels (of pay) far below those they should already be on, and that those who work on the mainland are discriminated against in relation to their colleagues in the Azores and Madeira”, the statement added.
According to the federation, the teachers it represents respected yesterday’s commemorations, and were greeted “by many people” who wished them strength to continue the fight.
“They were also greeted by the President of the Republic, who guaranteed that he will keep an eye on the situation” (…) and greeted teachers who demonstrated in a “civilised and respectful manner”.
The PM himself considered protests are “part of freedom and democracy”. It was only after the military ceremony, that Mr Costa and his wife, Fernanda Tadeu – herself a former teacher – experienced the worst of the non-Fenprof backed protestors, who really gave the PM no opportunity to talk or put his points across.
Tensions rose as the PM’s wife started retaliating. There was at least four occasions where the PM said to his wife the equivalent of “don’t respond, Fernanda”, but Mrs Costa wasn’t having any of it. She was eventually led away by security guards. At this point, the PM’s composure snapped, and he “shouted ‘racist’, visibly exalted”, says Lusa. Exalted may not be the best adjective. He was hugely irritated, with the posters of his face with a very unattractive pig nose doing nothing to appease the atmosphere.
As Observador remarked, “the atmosphere was hostile” – absolutely the last thing any political leader would want on a day celebrating ‘the nation’.
The PM had resisted entreaties from his security detail to take the car instead of what turned out to be this very tense walk to a nearby restaurant.
The little one could hear of his wife’s ripostes were that her thoughts were with the children and teens who have lost out this year as teachers insist on being respected.
Non-teachers in the crowd were also dismissive of the teachers’ stance, added Observador, some of them saying that if teachers don’t like working in the public sector, they should go to work in private schools.