Education International
Education International

Santo Domingo: Teachers demand ‘four per cent for education’

published 25 March 2011 updated 13 April 2011

The ’four per cent for education’ campaign in Santo Domingo is neither whimsical nor propaganda. It is a fully-costed response to a need that has legal and institutional grounds for support.

Thirteen years ago, after wide-ranging negotiations, President Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic approved the General Education Law 66/97. It was no accident that this law established the government’s obligation to allocate 16 per cent of its total budget or four per cent of GDP – whichever variable offered the higher amount – to the pre-university education sector.

The commitment was made on the back of serious misgivings by teachers about the failure of the government to properly invest in the training of teachers and the consequent delivery of every child’s right to access quality public education.

Government ignores the law

The government’s continued failure to comply with this legal mandate is the reason why 11 per cent of the population aged 15 or over cannot read or write. And with the majority of students concentrated in about 20 per cent of education establishments this has led to a situation where there are between 45-60 pupils in many primary school classrooms, and in some instances at secondary school level, class sizes range 65 to 90 students.

For Teresa Cabrera, EI Executive Board member and leader of the Dominican Teachers’ Association, this situation is untenable: “In every national and international assessment of education quality, the Dominican Republic ranks near the bottom. Research by the World Economic Forum has put our country 129 out of 131 countries in terms of education quality. President Fernández freely concedes that the country is unlikely to meet its obligations under the MDGs. This is completely unacceptable to my members, and that’s why we are acting to reverse this lamentable situation.”

Cabrera’s members are in no mood to back down: “Teachers want to serve our student population properly. We want to end the use of mobile vans or the shade of trees as classrooms, we want to replace inadequate classroom facilities, and we want the Education Ministry to build 24,000 new ones. This is the only way to guarantee quality education for all. “

Teachers in the Dominican Republic have mounted a popular national campaign to end this predicament, and they are building support from ordinary Dominicans who also want four per cent of GDP provided to support education in the 2011 budget.

Members of the union are also calling on the Ministry to commit to appointing trained staff with the right qualifications, and to pay teachers a decent salary which is adequate to cover the cost of living. This will end the need for teachers to work second or third jobs, and ensure that they have adequate, paid time to plan lessons and to supplement their teaching practice with developmental training.

Dominican society centre stage

For Cabrera, “when a government does not have the political will to invest in the education that our country needs, we have no choice but to act. That is why we have mobilised members and the public behind our campaign for four per cent of GDP for education. This puts Dominican society centre stage and it is why so many social sectors are mobilising in support our demand. This is how we must reinvigorate trade union campaigns.”

Cabrera concludes: “This demand is call for the guarantee of a fundamental human right, of education for all. We will continue our fight, yellow hats in hand, until we secure four per cent for education.”

By the Asociación Dominicana de Profesores(ADP), Dominican Republic

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 37, April 2011.