“We are still in mourning in the fight”: education professionals symbolically “buried”, this Saturday, the quality public school in front of the Assembly of the Republic, in Lisbon. Before that, they marched from the Palace of Justice, filled Rua Ferreira Borges, stopped in front of the official residence of the Prime Minister, in São Bento, and booed the Government. “It’s very difficult, I came today to fight for a better place for those who are still in schools”, explained Pureza Silva, a 70-year-old retired teacher, even though the demonstration was not even halfway through.
Shortly after 2 pm, teachers, educators, non-teaching staff, children and their guardians left the Palace of Justice, still in their hundreds, which quickly became thousands, bound for the Assembly of the Republic, where they would demobilize at 7 pm, already with heavy rain, in a protest organized by the Union of All Education Professionals (Stop).
The “death of education”, a human figure dressed all in black, was at the head of the platoon. Two iron chains, one around the neck and the other dragging along the ground with the word “humanity” written on it. “The fight continues, at school and on the street”, “School on the street, the government is to blame” or the already known “We don’t stop” were some of the phrases heard throughout the afternoon.
Pureza Silva taught Portuguese and French. Despite being retired, she accompanied the protest and asked for better conditions for her daughter, who followed in her mother’s footsteps and chose teaching as a profession, and for her colleagues. “I didn’t make it to the top of my career,” she explains. But she also did not see her career time frozen, unlike Ana Silva, her daughter.
He brings a poster with two red carnations and it is not the first demonstration he has attended. It’s the fifth, he says. A Mathematics teacher, she believes that “it is necessary to stop and understand the problem and attack this problem”. “I ask for a quality public school, which has only been getting worse and, if it continues like this, it will continue to get worse”, defends Ana Silva.
The teacher believes that, for this, more professionals are needed in schools, not only teachers, but also assistants, psychologists, speech therapists, among others.
Ana Silva, 45 years old and 23 years on the job, is in the 4th step of a career of ten and continues to protest because “no one listens”.
The kindergarten teacher in Setúbal, Sílvia Fernandes, also asks for better conditions, with the recovery of the frozen period of service (about six years) as the main demand. She gives the current Ministry of Education team a negative rating, “below zero”, and waves her resignation with a white handkerchief.
And white handkerchiefs were not lacking during the march, on several occasions they came out of pockets. When we arrived in São Bento, the afternoon was already starting to get long, the demonstrators showed us to the official residence of the prime minister. And they did it again in front of Parliament, after chanting The Portuguese.
“Shame on you,” they chanted outside the prime minister’s residence. “The Prime Minister did an interview in which he said that the full length of service cannot be counted because that would cost many millions of euros every year. He says that there is no money for those who work at the school and he did not mention a single word to the non-teaching staff, who are so important for the school”, said André Pestana, leader of Stop, to the demonstrators, who reacted with boos to the leader.
“We have to tell the prime minister that there is money in this country, he knows it. There are always millions to cover bankers’ holes”, he concluded.
Vigil from today
Sílvia Fernandes criticizes the fact that she spent “21 years with the same salary”. “I joined this year”, she explains further, and knows that, like many other colleagues, she will not reach the top of her career. In addition to being present at the demonstration, the educator will also spend two nights at the vigil that Stop started this Saturday, after the demonstration ended.
When there were still only a few hundred demonstrators, around 2 pm, we met Raquel Matias, “a teacher and mother”, accompanied by her partner and two daughters. “We came as a family to ask for a better school, one that trains fairer citizens”, she reiterated.
“I thought that the strikes were no longer making sense because they are already harming the students and that is not fair. We cannot harm them, ”she underlined further.
In defense of public schools and for better working conditions and wages, this is the fourth demonstration promoted by Stop since December, when it also started an indefinite strike that still continues, to demand better conditions for all school professionals, as a salary increase of 120 euros. The strike is already subject to minimum services.
In addition to better working conditions and wages for school professionals, Stop claims the recovery of more than six years of service time for teachers and the end of vacancies for access to the 5th and 7th career levels.