Tens of thousands of teachers in two major Mexican states have staged protests to oppose the new educational reforms imposed by President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government.
The rallies took place on Wednesday in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca in the southern parts of the country.
Union leaders say that the government-imposed reforms will lead to students having no guarantee of free public schooling, and that the education system is turning into a business.
Local media reported that in the Guerrero capital of Chilpancingo de los Bravo armed teachers with stones, sticks and tomatoes entered four radio stations and attacked headquarters of the state congress.
Meanwhile, in the state of Oaxaca, reportedly tens of thousands of members from the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) blocked the entrances to shopping malls and declared the reforms as a part of the “privatization of education in Mexico.”
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto signed an education reform into law on February 25, which moves the control of the educational system from the teachers’ union to the federal government.
The new law allows teachers to be hired on the basis of professional qualities, rather than by the designation of unions. There have also been reports of teaching positions being sold or inherited by the unions.
This comes as Nieto warned on Wednesday that the government “will not allow setbacks in the implementation (of the reform) or any attempt to pressure or jeopardize the initiative.”
Further protests are planned by the teachers’ unions, who are calling for the occupation of public buildings.
On February 26, police in Mexico arrested the leader of the powerful National Union of Education Workers, Elba Esther Gordillo, after being charged with embezzling two billion pesos (about $160 million).
Mexico has a population of about 112 million people, where only 64 percent complete their primary school education, 13 percent earn a degree and 2 percent graduate with a Master's degree from university according to estimates by several non-governmental organizations.