Mexico is being rocked by the disappearance of 43 young men, and students there have called for a general strike on November 20. The 43 student teachers at Ayotzinapa, Mexico, were kidnapped on Sep. 26 of this year, by police forces in the town of Iguala. The police, according to reports, then handed the student teachers over to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. They have not been seen since.
In their early years, they [rural teachers colleges] trained the sons and daughters of poor farmers to staff rural schools, not only to serve as teachers but also to tend to the sick, oversee the building of water systems, and serve as intermediaries to obtain rural bank loans for cooperatives.
But government support for the schools is very weak, and students must raise their own funds to support their work. The students had gone to Iguala, two hours away, to raise funds for the work of their school, which is shown in this video.
The mayor of Iguala and his wife were apparently upset that students had embarrassed them through public protests in the past, and ordered the kidnappings. The two have been arrested, along with police officers and members of the drug cartel.
There are now increasing efforts to defend and support the rural teachers colleges in Mexico. Former students of these schools have begun to organize. And the Mexican Inter-University Students Assembly, attended by students from 79 schools across the country, has called for a general strike on November 20, which is a national holiday that commemorates the Mexican revolution.
Those of us in the United States have some strong connections to this tragedy, though our media has been largely silent. Our schools of education, while not under paramilitary assault, are weathering a sustained effort to undermine them, financed by billionaire reformers. Privatization threatens to replace public institutions with for-profit ones on both sides of the border. The corrupt alliance between narco-traffickers and government officials is tolerated by the US, with its phony “war on drugs,” and this corruption is at the root of the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa 43.
Dr. Tim Slekar, Dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College, said this:
It is hard to imagine the sacrifice endured by these future teachers to secure justice and equity for their students. The facts will eventually emerge but what all educators need to do is stand in solidarity with Ayotzinapa Normal School students and teachers. We must remember that it is the work of all of us (teachers) to expose injustice and inequity. And now it is time for all teachers around the world to demand justice for the 43 student teachers and their families.
And student activist Israel Muñoz, who attends Fordham University in New York, commented:
The ongoing situation in Mexico is one that has painfully resonated within me. This isn’t just because Mexico is a country which I love and the country where my parents are from. As someone that has been involved in education activism alongside students and teachers, the situation in Mexico resonates especially close because these students were the victims of state oppression in their fight for justice. The 43 students were like everyone else I know in the fight for justice in education. I can only hope that justice will be served in Mexico, but more than anything, I hope that these lives were not lost in vain and that the movement will grow stronger, bringing us one step closer to achieving justice in education in Mexico and beyond.
This week, join in raising awareness of Ayotzinapa by following and tweeting the hashtag #Ayotzinapa. Watch for local events in solidarity – and please post any you become aware of in the comments below.