With new strikes underway in Portuguese public schools, it is important to understand what is driving this wave of teacher indignation.

In recent months, strikes have been taking place all over the country. With 23 teachers' unions, each union can call strikes and teachers do not even need to be in the union to have the right to participate in the strike.

However, even with all this outrage and protests drawing everyone's attention, the Government has remained almost silent and there is no solution in sight.

Lack of respect

At school, teachers regret that they are not able to educate children. They are not allowed to speak in a loud voice when children's behaviour is bad, they are not even allowed to take the children's phones if they use them in class and if they miss classes, teachers are not even allowed to make the children fail the year.

"Students can do whatever they want. I want to know what will happen when these people have their first failure, their first frustration, when they have to face it and there is no one to tell them that everything is OK, because it's not. Children today no longer fail the year due to absences," said Lena Soares and Miguel Gomes, teachers from the Gil Eanes School Group in Lagos.

"There are no consequences. There were always children who enjoyed learning and others who didn't, but now it's going unpunished. We are saying they can choose between having merit and not having it and the consequence is the same," they said.


In education, teachers complain about salaries that do not increase over time. For example, Miguel said that the net salary has increased by 90 euros since 2008. In addition to the lack of autonomy, this is making the profession less attractive, which has already led to a shortage of teachers.

In order to address this shortage, schools are hiring professionals from other fields. "There are already too many people teaching who are not teachers. This is how the Government is thinking of solving the shortage of teachers. Anyone who has a master's degree, or a degree, can go to school and teach children. However, no matter how much goodwill and commitment they have, they don't know how to be teachers," said Miguel.

"It is not from one day to the next that you become a teacher. Anyone can talk about what they know, it is another thing to have children in front of you and make them understand what you are telling them," said Miguel Gomes, who has been a teacher for 30 years.

Learning Portuguese

For non-Portuguese speakers, Lena and Miguel said that over the years the investment has been decreasing more and more. "Foreign students used to have a subject called "non-native Portuguese language", but now this can only be opened if there are 10 or 15 students at the same level, otherwise they are not entitled to anything, especially in small schools, if there are not 10 at the same level then the class does not open," they said.

What can parents do during these times?

"What parents can do is what they should do every day. It is to follow up, to be interested to know what they have done in class. Something they can do is as simple as looking at the notebook and trying to see where their children have struggled, especially in the early years of school, even if parents don't know anything about it, most things are so simple that anyone who makes an effort can understand”, teacher Miguel said.

Another tip that teacher Lena suggested was to get them to talk about a book they have read, a film they have watched or a game they are playing. As a Portuguese teacher, she knows how important it is for children to express themselves and gain vocabulary.

"Even if the parents are cooking and not really listening, they can ask questions and the children will talk because they feel that someone is paying attention. With this little exercise, they are developing their writing, their imagination and their understanding skills," she said


Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins