‘Karla’ feels frustrated. “Another Friday in which the training was about peace, reconciliation and rejection of the coup mongers. I am fed up of the same,” she says annoyed.
This primary school teacher, who agreed to talk with Confidencial on condition of anonymity, is one of many thousand teachers who impart classes in the primary and secondary public schools in the country. They are required to attend what are now partisan workshops which the Ministry of Education (MINED) has converted what were training on the last Friday of each month to strengthen pedagogical skills.
Since the April Rebellion, on the last Friday of each month, teachers now receive “motivational talks” that “promote peace and reconciliation,” and reject “the coup and those vandals on the right.” In the words of ‘Esperanza,’ another teacher in a MINED institute in the north of the country, the trainings are nothing more than a waste of time and, also, are given by people who “lack professional preparation.”
Teachers are forced by supporters of Daniel Ortega’s regime to watch the series “180 Degrees: Keys of truth,” which attempts to exempt the regime from its responsibility in the April massacre. What do these manipulated videos have to do with education, asks Karla? She adds that, although in the classrooms the indifference of the teachers is evident, the dictatorship’s supporters (teachers and principals who have political positions in the Sandinista Front) do not stop projecting the images in each session.
The teachers used to be summoned the one Friday a month to the largest schools in their districts or municipalities to receive an Evaluation, Programming and Educational Training Workshops (TEPCE), whose sole objective was to reinforce knowledge on topics in which teachers had weaknesses. “Yes, they always mentioned their bullshit politics, but it was minimal, very minimal. We saw it as normal,” ‘Karla’ recalls.
After holding several meetings with high-level officials of the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship, after April 18, 2018, the MINED permanently eliminated the TEPCE and communicated to the directors of primary and secondary schools that they should continue to attend, every last Friday of each month, to what are now called the Inter-Learning Pedagogical Meetings (EPI). Training that, according to the statement made by ‘Esperanza,’ is nothing more than a new space used by the government to politicize any educational activity.
“Their bootlickers come to give their ridiculous talks on “education for peace” when we cannot speak of real peace without justice, without freedom of expression, without professional autonomy. For example, when they tell you that you must pass a student to another grade, even if he failed. What they are promoting is ignorance and not education. It is intended, in the long run, to have a student population with empty heads, ignorant students, easy to deceive and manipulate,” criticizes ‘Esperanza.’
The talks start at seven in the morning and end at twelve noon. After receiving a heavy dose of their bullshit politics, teachers have little time to discuss subject matters and schedule contents. The problem is that, in addition to the reduced hours they have for what really matters, the curricular programs for 2019 are deficient, and at the end what the directors in charge of the EPI advice is to transcribe the document to the notebooks.
“It shows that those who prepare them lack experience, because the contents do not have a logical order or are adequate to the grade that corresponds. Sometimes, it is not even complete,” says ‘Esperanza,’ who points out that, instead of improving the serious deficiencies of the national education plan, MINED authorities only intend to instill worship of the Ortega-Murillo regime.
Details of the EPI
The discourse of MINED changed in April 2018. It is not that before April 2018 we did not talk about politics in the EPI, however, now these trainings come full of contents that are repeated, over and over again, words like love, peace, security, dialogue and work. The same that Vice President Rosario Murillo reads in her daily interventions at noon in the official media.
“From the MINED we continue working on the promotion and practice of values for a healthy coexistence, based on respect, love, security, peace and life that contributes to the wellbeing and tranquility of our children, adolescents, youths and their families,” reads the EPI program of September 2018.
‘Carlos,’ principal of a high school who spoke with Confidencial in exchange for protection of his identity, explained that these “meetings” are used to talk about how good “our good Government is” with the clear purpose of convincing the teachers, so that they will not rise up against the regime.
In the citizen protests that erupted in April 2018, thousands of students placed themselves in front of the protests, barricaded in their university campuses, sometimes with the support or backing of their teachers. Hundreds of students were expelled and their records erased. Dozens of teachers were also fired. In secondary schools, although there was no taking over of education centers, outbreaks of rebelliousness were reported.
In addition, 25 of the 29 minors killed by the repression between April and September of 2018 were between 13 to 17 years old and were studying in some primary or secondary school. A Confidencial report, published in October of 2018, revealed that the Ministry of Education denied mourning of students in public schools, prohibiting any tribute for those killed. Instead, the Government now promotes in public schools the screening of official documentaries that attempt to hide the official massacre.
“The EPI always starts with a greeting from a delegate of ANDEN (the National Association of Teachers of Nicaragua, entity related to the Government), which paraphrasing a bit says: ‘I bring you a warm greeting from our President and comrade Rosario, so do not believe that they have forgotten you. The salary increase will come. But you have to wait some more, because with all this crisis that happened, because of the coup plotters, our President has to see how it is solved, but the increase goes.’ It seems to me such a ludicrous way to keep fooling people,” Carlos says.
After the greeting, an integration and motivation dynamic generally follows, which sometimes, consist in answering in groups some questions such as, how can peace be achieved? Or, what do the following terms suggest: culture, dialogue, reconciliation? Hinting at the reproduction of the official narrative.
Anger and frustration
For ‘Carlos’ it is clear that the Government seeks, every Friday at the end of the month, to introduce, in anyway, the idea that they want to live in peace and harmony. Something that creates confusion, anger and frustration among most of the teachers, because in the streets peace is repression and harmony is synonymous with jail,
The EPI are also spaces to talk about the latest laws and reforms approved by the Ortega dictatorship. For example, in March of 2019, Law 985 was “discussed,” Law for a Culture of Dialogue, Reconciliation, Security, Work and Peace, designed by the Government to promote a self-pardon of the crimes that international human rights organizations have considered as crimes against humanity, with a balance of 325 confirmed deaths.
To all this, we must add the changes that education has undergone in general with the Ortega Government. For example, “teachers cannot fail students and the grade for the subject “Growing in Values (Moral and Civic), has to be the same as conduct.” First and second grade children should also be promoted, even if they cannot read. And to change student grades if there are many failing the grade at the end of the year.
“In short, this has created some unrest among the teachers. In the EPI you can listen to teachers tired and disillusioned with their vocation, such as the teacher who expressed that she loved to be a teacher, but lately wants to devote herself to something else. And that although at some point she wanted to present her papers to the MINED to get a post, now she is not interested,” ‘Carlos’ says.
The students’ rebellion
The students in public schools also do not want to see the audiovisual propaganda of the regime on the repression. On several occasions, when they try to present in the classrooms the so-called “180 Degrees: Keys to truth” series, students protest, and record live videos on their social networks, rejecting the audiovisual narrative. “Nobody is interested in seeing that,” expressed one student at the Maestro Gabriel Institute, where the regime presented the propaganda chapter on the family of the Karl Marx neighborhood, where six people, including two minors, were burned to death.
After Holy Week in 2019, the MINED authorities issued a directive to all principals of the largest secondary schools in the country: “The students have to watch the manipulated videos of the protests, no matter if the curriculum is interrupted,” confessed a teacher from a school in the capital.
“Most teachers do not want to present these videos…kids are not stupid, the whole crisis has been well documented and it is difficult for a person who is beginning to develop their own criterion, to be contaminated with the falsehoods of those documentaries,” assured another professor of a high school in Managua.
Josefina Vigil, researcher and education specialist, estimates that, with the presentation of the government’s videos in high schools, the regime intends to impose its own narrative: an alternative, surrealist reality, because they try to convince students to “not believe in their own eyes, but believe in them.”
“What the dictatorship is doing is not only a violation of all laws, she adds, it is also contrary to the purpose of education and is something that should be sanctioned. They are using teachers, manipulating the teachers, schools, all the resources of education.”