Now in the sixth week of the national strike, we learn that the Ministry of Education (MEP) is investigating 556 teachers on strike who traveled out of the country. According to official data, the travel took place between September 9, one before the national strike and October 8, when the first case was reported publicly.

Mélida Cedeño, president of APSE, who was one of the negotiators of the preliminary dialogue, but did not accept the agreement with the government, calls the MEP report an attempt by the government to give striking teachers a bad public opinion. Photo Jeffrey Zamora

The MEP said if an employee – teacher or other – is absent without justification, he or she is exposed to a suspension without salary benefit or he could be dismissed without responsibility (severance and other benefits).

For clarity, MEP employees on strike are not subject to the above sanctions unless they were not in the country, that is traveling when they were to be on strike if confirmed by the immigration service.

MEP Minister Edgar Mora confirmed an investigation is underway and that each case will be investigated individually.

The news of the investigation confirms that Minister Mora was not wrong when he said that it was not unique the case of the teacher who took advantage of the strike days to go with her family on vacation in Mexico.

Mora said all (who traveled) are identified by name and cedula (ID).

The minister added there are 12 cases of travel of up to 29 days and some who still have yet to return from their self-given vacations.

The MEP report indicates 79 employees traveled between 10 and 19 days, 165 between five and nine days and 245 from one to four days. Another 34 left and returned the same day.

For her part, the president of teacher’s union, Mélida Cedeño, called the list the “unfortunate list” and criticized the MEP cross-checking the information with the immigration service when it has never been done before.

For the leader of the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza (APSE), the report is the government’s attempt to discredit them – the teachers and the union.

“It is to believe because we’ve seen a lot of distorting information regarding our strike and what educators do because what they (the government) want is to give us a bad public opinion in the fight we are in (national strike against the tax reform,” Cedeño said.

For his part, Gilberto Cascante, president of the Asociación Nacional de Educadores (ANDE), sais, “My position is to investigate the causes of why they left the country, but I do not have the list; immediately when the MEP gives me the list and if they are affiliated to the ANDE, I will review case by case the cause for which they left.”

Today, in its 38th days of the strike movement, 98.5% of public employees who are still on strike are from the education sector, a situation that brings uncertainty to students of all levels about the future of the school year, especially the 49,000 who would begin national tests “bachillerato” (high school graduation) on October 30.