Ecuadorian teachers end hunger strike after court ratified progressive education law

The National Union of Educators, announced the end of the hunger strike after the Constitutional Court ratified the constitutionality and validity of the Organic Law of Intercultural Education

August 13, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Ecuadorian teachers, who had been carrying out a hunger strike in defense of public education since July 12, ended the measure on August 12 after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Organic Law of Intercultural Education (LOEI). Photo: Radio Huancavilca

On August 12, Ecuadorian teachers, who had been carrying out a hunger strike in defense of public education since July 12, ended the measure after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Organic Law of Intercultural Education (LOEI). The highest court ratified the constitutionality of the LOEI and declared it valid as demanded by teachers as well as students and parents who supported them.

However, the court declared that the reforms related to a special retirement system and an increase in teachers’ salaries will not be in force until their “formal defect of unconstitutionality” is resolved in the parliament. The court granted the parliament a period of 30 days and six month to resolve the issues related to the increase in remuneration and special retirement, respectively.

The National Union of Educators (UNE), which organized the strike, celebrated the verdict as a victory for teachers, students and parents. In a tweet, the UNE stated that “after 32 days of hunger strike, we triumphed! The whole of LOEI is constitutional. The students, teachers, parents, and the education community won” and called on all sectors to remain united and vigilant until “100% of the educational law is enforced.”

The LOEI is an educational reform that modifies about 80% of the existing education system, which has been in force since March 2011. It is the product of 12 years of extensive work of more than 100 educational organizations and unions. It increases the budget for the education sector to 6% of the country’s GDP, guarantees inclusive and quality public education, includes artistic and cultural teaching, employs special education teachers for students with disabilities at all educational levels, provides free Internet in all public education establishments, increases the basic salary of teachers from 817 USD to 1,086 USD, establishes the reinstatement of teachers who were fired or dismissed during the health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, establishes special retirement policies, among other measures.

The law was approved unanimously in the National Assembly on March 9 and would have come into effect last month. However, it remained suspended due to a lawsuit filed against it by the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (IESS).

On July 12, over 30 teachers began an indefinite hunger strike in four cities of the country. In the past five weeks, the measure expanded to 13 of 24 provinces and 89 teachers joined the hunger strike. After the court’s announcement, the eleven teachers, who are in poor health due to the lack of food, were immediately transferred to a hospital.

The president of the National Assembly, Guadalupe Llori Abarca, welcomed the court’s decision, met with the strikers staying in camps set up outside the parliament and promised to work together with them from the legislature on the pending articles.

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