Thousands of Panamanian teachers have begun a national strike after failing to reach an agreement with the government on education reforms.
Two People Arrested in Panama Pence Protest
The strikers, who have led protests for over two months, are demanding better pay, improved working conditions and additional funding from the government.
More specifically, strikers are calling on the government of President Juan Carlos Varela to attend to the needs of teachers in poor areas, including remote rural areas and peripheral urban neighborhoods of the country’s capital. This includes improving public transportation to schools in those areas and boosting budgets for wages and supplies.
Some 18 teachers lost their lives over the last decade while trying to commute to schools in rural areas, according to statistics released by Panama’s Association of Teachers.
Association of Teachers Secretary General Juan Jose de La Lastra from Veraguas said the strike “will last until an adequate response is given to the comrades who have been unemployed for 60 days in areas of difficult access.”
La Lastra added that strike has spread to the provinces of Herrera, Los Santos, Cocle, Colon, Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro.
About 63 percent of Panama’s 10,360 rural teachers are located in the mountainous provinces of Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro, located on the border with Costa Rica. These provinces, according to the Association of Teachers, have some of the country’s worst road conditions, making it difficult for teachers to commute to work.
Teachers in peripheral urban neighborhoods of Panama City claim their commute is difficult because of flooded and deteriorated roads.
Panama’s Ministry of Education said it would deduct part of the teacher’s salaries for not returning to work.
Public schools educators also went on strike last year in the country’s main cities, demanding that the government accept a wage hike which was promised by the previous administration.