Appeal focused on bypassing legal requirement to provide minimum services
FENPROF teachers federation leader Mário Nogueira has made an extraordinary appeal to the parents of this country – effectively trying to get them to support strike actions that have caused endless disruption to children’s education since December last year.
His appeal today is “don’t take your children to school” – the reason being that if no pupils are in schools, teachers won’t be required to fulfill the legal requirement to provide a minimum of three hours of classes per day.
Mr Nogueira told reporters: “It makes no sense that a strike that is today and tomorrow should have these forced services”, he said – seemingly ignoring the fact that this week’s strikes are simply the latest in a long line of school closures in the name of the teachers’ ‘struggle’ that has seen multiple protest marches, particularly in Lisbon, and appears to have no solution in sight.
He stressed: “For us it is very important that parents do not take their children to school. In the first place, for solidarity with the teachers and with the reasons for their struggle. And as these services are forced and will not be equal everywhere, there is the risk of children, at a certain moment of the day, being left in the street”.
This latter reason is to a large sense spurious, as children would be allowed to remain on school property. There is no question that they would be ‘left on the street’.
But this may be the first time in the history of workers’ struggles in Portugal that a union has appealed for active support from the public. It is not usual, for example, for transport syndicates to ask passengers to stop travelling to work; nor do health syndicates ask patients to stop getting ill. It is taking this strike to a new level of introspection: “For us, it is very important…” Us being the teachers; not the parents, or the pupils who have already suffered two years of disruption in education due to the many restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Today, the teachers’ strike is taking place in the district of Coimbra; tomorrow it moves to the district of Leiria. But, according to the court of arbitration, all schools are bound to provide ‘minimum services’ (set as three hours of classes, or at least school periods, for all pupils).
Mário Nogueira told journalists this morning that “the solidarity of parents” has been felt by teachers, and that the poll that shows “the vast majority of the population is behind this struggle gives more force to their protest”.
“The reasons for continuing with this strike are more than several”, he added. “We have completed a national consultation of teachers and they want to continue to fight, and they will continue to fight”, he continued – claiming “there is a persecution of teachers by the government”…
It is all very dramatic, and in a small measure, irrelevant. Tomorrow sees a public sector workers’ strike so schools all over the country will be closed by dint of the fact that janitors and non-teaching staff will be taking part.
But it is also a deeply unsettling moment, in that parents have never before been asked to aid a strike, the continuation of which is damaging their own children.