“In defence of the public school. For a free, democratic, fair and solidary society. Will it take a revolution?” – read a banner illustrated with a red carnation in allusion to the April 1974 revolution. Next to the banner, dozens of teachers with carnations in their hands answered "Respect" to the question "What do we demand?" coming from the stage.
The strike by districts that started on January 16 ends today in Porto with a demonstration organised by eight union organisations, including the National Federation of Teachers (Fenprof).
Eduardo Ricardo, a 1st cycle teacher at Escola João de Deus (Porto) told Lusa that he joined the demonstration for himself, but above all for his younger colleagues.
“The profession [teaching] has certainly been devalued for over 20 years. Devaluation is increasing. And what shocks me, above all, is the comparison between the precariousness of my younger colleagues and the stability I had at the beginning of my career more than 40 years ago”, said Eduardo Ricardo.
Ana Saraiva, biology and geology teacher at the Rodrigues de Freitas School Group (Porto) stated that “the profession is not respected by the Government”.
“I'm from that group of the 16% that are in the 10th step, but I would like them to tell me the whole time of service and to thaw the six years that I had frozen”, she said.
Asked if she has any idea of the loss of income that the years of career freeze have already caused her, Ana Saraiva used an expression that became famous in 1995 with the socialist António Guterres.
“I would have to move up to another step sooner, 2/3 years earlier. Just do the math”, said the teacher, admitting that she didn’t do it because “she doesn’t even dare to find out the value”.
Both were on the left side of Avenida dos Aliados facing the Porto City Hall, together with colleagues with banners that read “In the fight against the degradation of the teaching profession”, “We are also fighting to teach” or “We demand appreciation and respect for a teaching career”.
On stage and on the avenue, speeches and interviews by union and political leaders followed one another, including the coordinator of the Left Block, Catarina Martins.
“It is irresponsible to keep wages so low and this enormous precariousness”, the block leader told journalists, recalling that “the teaching staff in Portugal is very aged and the new generations have fled from being teachers because they know that conditions are difficult”.
The general secretary of Fenprof, Mário Nogueira, who circulated among the teachers and encouraged the waving of flags, told Lusa that the teachers will only remain silent when the Ministry of Education “responds to the demands”.
“This determination of these teachers and the will to continue fighting is extraordinary and this will not stop,” he said.
On Saturday, teachers and school staff will once again participate in another national demonstration to be held in Lisbon.