Photo via Segui Noticias

The beginning of the school year in Argentina has arrived, and you know what that means: the majority of children attending public schools in this country won’t be going to class, as only seven provinces have managed to reach salary agreements with the teachers unions.

President Mauricio Macri today inaugurated a school in the Corrientes Province, but didn’t make a specific reference to the ongoing negotiations. He did talk about the poor results obtained after the Aprender tests last year and the need to turn Argentina’s education system around.

“Hiding those results is not the solution, we don’t have to fear the truth,” said Macri, joined by governor Gustavo Valdés and the mayor of Bella Vista town Walter Chávez.

Macri also argued that there would not be education in the country if teachers didn’t do their job “with such love, generosity and care.”

“Nothing would be possible without them,” he said.

The Buenos Aires Province, by far the most influential one in these negotiations, is not one of the seven jurisdictions going back to school today, and the two camps currently locking horns will probably be doing so for a long time.

In the jurisdictions that are in the same situation as the BA Province, kids having class or not will depend on whether their teachers decide to join the 48-hour-long strike called by several national and provincial unions led by CTERA, the largest one of them all.

Those who will have also been called to march to the National Education Ministry to bring visibility to their demands, which revolve around four axes:

  • Having the national wage negotiation reinstated
  • Living wages
  • Having a larger percentage of the national budget be destined to education
  • Defending the pensions system, which they claim the government wants to change.

The national government, despite not being directly involved in the negotiations, has established the lines that most provinces follow by announcing its intention of offering a 15 percent yearly increase to its workers, along with its expected inflation rate.

However, unions who have not reached agreements demand increases closer to 20 percent, this being the number that private analysts and the Central Bank’s (BCRA) last projection estimated the actual rate will be.

National Education Minister Alejandro Finocchiaro got fully involved in the clash, announcing that provincial administrations will deduct striking days from the teachers’ wages. Moreover, he confronted directly with the leaders of CTERA, assuring they are doing politics at the expense of the children’s education.

“Society is coming to terms with the fact that the [poor] results of the Aprender tests were a product of 12 years of CTERA dominating education. And that is something we have to change,” he said. When pointing out that three unions had not joined the strike, he argued he believed “we will be extremely surprised by the amount of schools that will be open, and the number of teachers that will attend.”

Last year, the largest unions only reached an agreement in July, after months of conflicts that included 16 days of strikes. This year promises to be no different.