Confidencial

Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education Fires Teachers Who Supported Protests in Esteli

The Ortega government has fired workers who have supported the protests. The picture is of a march in support of dismissed doctors. Photo: Esteban Biba / EFE

For supporting anti-government marches in her locality, the Ministry of Education of Nicaragua (MINED) fired Veronica Martinez Suarez, a high school teacher from Pueblo Nuevo in the province of Esteli. The local education official, Francisco Acuna, personally delivered the letter of dismissal at her house. It did not matter to him that she was five months short of her retirement. He also did not seem to care that she had 34 years of teaching under her belt nor that she was the creator of a weekend distance learning course at the Heroes and Martyrs School in that municipality.

The 54-year old teacher arrived to her school one last time on Friday August 3. She imparted her regular class and in the afternoon, went to the human resources office to pick up her paycheck. Strangely, that day the office informed her that her check had been lost. “I imagined that something was going to happen but I decided to go home after I reported this to the school principal,” Ms. Suarez told Confidencial.

Minutes later, Mr. Acuna arrived with a human resources officer to deliver the letter of her dismissal. The justification to rescind her contract was Section 4 of Article 32 of The Teacher Tenure Law (Law 114). Article 32 stipulates termination requirements for the country’s schoolteachers and Section 4 stipulates as cause for dismissal “behavior that severely contravenes professional ethics”. Other legal causes for dismissal are unjustified absences for more than three consecutive days, actions that lead to material damages of school premises and furniture, serious moral offense or physical assault against other school staff, and prison sentencing that entails forfeiture of freedom.

According to Ms. Suarez, none of the above legal causes is applicable to her case.

“It was because I supported the civic marches. The MINED delegate came to my house with the intention of reading the letter to me. I said, with all due respect, my house is not a MINED office and I don’t share your political views on the difficult situation facing our education system. I have worked for the Nicaraguan people, educating future professionals. My students can attest to whether I was a good or bad teacher”.

Ms. Suarez is part of a group of three fired teachers from Esteli. The other two, Henry Macoy and Ana Valiezka Espinoza Rivas, also had a long teaching careers and were fired for publicly disagreeing with government repression and for participating in protests.

Ms. Rivas has a registered Twitter account. She is a very active user of this network and after her dismissal, she tweeted it in her account. On prior occasions, she posted tweets condemning governmental repression against protesters demanding the resignation of the president and his associates. On July 29, Ms. Rivas tweeted that Ortega sympathizers had threatened her.

“I don’t understand why people continue to support these murderers and are proud of showing off their guns and red and black flags. As a political leader, I would be ashamed if I had these people as sympathizers”.

On August 8, Ms. Rivas tweeted a hopeful message to her followers. “We need a free Nicaragua. What is happening now is unjust. We are prisoners in our own country and to make things worse, they are violating our rights”.

Partaking in the Revolution
Ms. Suarez began her work at the Heroes and Martyrs School of Pueblo Nuevo back in 1984. Prior to her hiring as a teacher, she volunteered in the country’s national literacy and coffee harvests campaigns.

“If we talk about the Revolution, I participated. I was a member of the national literacy board because I agreed with their slogan. The father of the Revolution is Carlos Fonseca and he said the people need to learn how to read. I saw this as an important task for society”. She later moved to Nicaragua’s capital to study Biology and Natural Science at the country’s public university, UNAN. She was a volunteer in several environmental protection groups and as a teacher, she taught leveling courses for young soldiers who were returning from their tour of duty.

Ms. Suarez was close to reaching her legal retirement. This past January, she reached her 35th anniversary of teaching. She had also doubled her required social security deductions and was suffering the debilitating effects of chronic radiculopathy. “I was going to enjoy it (my retirement). I expected this to happen (her firing) but not so soon” said Ms. Suarez.

Ms. Suarez does not regret supporting the anti-government civilian protest. “That’s my flag, I am not against anyone. I supported the kids who participated in the marches. My conscience is clear; my students can say whether I am a bad or good teacher. I am against fraudulent grading because a teacher should work by the book, should behave professionally”.

Elementary and high school students protested in schools in Condega, Esteli against the arbitrary dismissal of teachers. In Pueblo Nuevo, there were no protest but there was a public display of support at Ms. Suarez house. “Even though teachers may not agree with certain things, many remain silent because they still have many years ahead before retiring. My conscience is clear because I have not burned nor stolen anything. I feel that I responded appropriately when I was being attacked. Those who attacked me were teachers from the school administration. They slandered the priests and laughed but this did not harm me nor will it. I feel strength. God is just and great. To me this is a surface nuisance. I have not lost anything of note”.

Ms. Suarez still has not received her salary check. For this reason, she hired a lawyer to carry out due diligence procedures and force MINED to pay her social benefits as required by law. “God has justice in his hands. Divine justice is better. I do not have anything personal against them (the government, the teachers, and the MINED delegate). May God bless them and may they continue ahead”, said Miss Suarez, who prior to her dismissal, gave 10th graders classes during the afternoon shift.