“First education and then dialogue,” were the words of President Enrique Peña Nieto to the teachers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) on the first day of the 2016-2017 academic year.
“There will not be further dialogue if we do not first guarantee that children can receive education in the classrooms that today remain closed,” he said to the teachers who continue to strike today.
At the commencement ceremony of the 2016-2017 academic year, Peña Nieto stated that the government has always demonstrated a willingness to speak to and attend to the demands of teachers, but he warned that the children must not be held hostage against the demands of some. He announced that that the government would not continue dialogue with the teachers who are against the Education Reform until they return to the classroom.
Speaking in the “Profesora Eudoxia Calderón Gómez” primary school in Toluca, State of Mexico, where Peña Nieto was a former student, he insisted that teachers must be responsible for the education they are expected to give. On two different occasions he made it clear that he expects the teachers to continue with the school day.
“I want to respectfully ask teachers, especially those who are in opposition of the Education Reform, to return to classes and teach,” he said. “Don’t sacrifice students’ education for your demands. They don’t deserve it. The children in our country have a right to an education.”
The conflict with the CNTE left thousands of children without education in states like Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero.
“Education in Mexico is and will continue to be obligatory, free and secular,” he added. “Education and the corresponding materials will continue to be free.”
Peña Nieto warned that the future of Mexican children is non-negotiable and that it is up to communities to give children the tools and resources to be able to best confront the challenges of the 21st century.