Ecuador: Teachers on hunger strike for quality public education
Education International's affiliate in Ecuador, the National Educators’ Union (UNE), has launched a difficult struggle to advocate for quality public education for the Ecuadorian people.
Since 2011, UNE has been demanding reforms be made to the Organic Law on Intercultural Education (LOEI) which originally eliminated a series of basic teachers’ and students' rights. Through mass mobilisation on March 8th 2012, UNE, together with other sectors, presented a “people's legislative initiative" to the National Assembly, supported by more than 70 000 signatures. In the initiative, UNE proposed reforms for 86 of the approximately 143 articles that constitute the LOEI.
To achieve the current reforms, 14 workshops were organised in 2020 with the participation of broad sectors from popular movements who saw this process as an opportunity to eradicate the violence, persecution and violation of rights caused by the 2011 LOEI in Ecuador's National Education System.
The new LOEI was approved by an absolute majority in the National Assembly, approved by the Executive and published in the Official Gazette in April 2021. For the education community, this new law restores students' and teachers' rights. One of its features is a guarantee to invest 6% of Gross Domestic Product in education and to advocate for education that is free from violence and inclusive, as well as for an improvement to teachers' working conditions, including making teachers' wages equal to those of similar professions.
However, the enforcement of these reforms is currently stalled following a request made by the Office of the President of the Republic to the Constitutional Court, which aims to claim the reforms are “unconstitutional”.
In light of this, many teachers who are members of UNE went on hunger strike on July 19th in defence of the full implementation of the LOEI. There are currently around 80 teachers and students on hunger strike throughout the country.
The Education International Regional Committee for Latin America stated its position in a comunique in defense of the constitutionality of Ecuador's LOEI, which includes areas of progress that are a reference for the region.
The Committee has called on Ecuador's Consitutional Court to “ensure the LOEI is enforced, as giving in to political pressure from people in the Executive and economic sectors, as has happened in this case, goes against the very resolutions issued by the Constitutional Court and is damaging to democracy”.