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Schools protest as Valencia fails to pay up

Schools in the Valencia region have not received financial support since April 2011. This stark fact has led to recent protests across the region. Las Culturas CEIP in Torrevieja is one of the many schools that have held local protests as well as taking part in regional marches and demonstrations against the attack on their budgets.


Las Culturas school in Torrevieja

Protests over school budget cuts, but this may only be the beginning. Photo: Suzanne O'Connell.

The absence of funding from Valencia has led to some schools being left without electricity and others having no money for basic resources or unable to replace teachers who are absent. Las Culturas is struggling on a week-by-week basis. So how have they been managing?

A representative from the school explained: “The only way we are able to keep the school running is through using the money that people contribute towards lunch. Without this we would have nothing. We would not be able to buy paper for the photocopier or even toilet paper.”

The cut in resources has had immediate effects, while other cut backs will have longer-term implications. Teacher pay and conditions are being affected too. “We have two grades of teacher. One is fully qualified and the others are called ‘interinos’. The fully qualified teachers are having their salaries cut. For the interinos it’s even worse. They won’t be paid if they’re ill or for the summer holiday – over two months without income is very difficult to budget for. They will have to ‘sign on’ and apply for unemployment benefit instead.”

“We are all very anxious, angry and bemused,” another representative explains. “We feel that the public services here are having to pay for the mistakes of the private sector and politicians. It’s the most vulnerable who are being affected, the young, the old and the ill. It’s not just our schools that will suffer. They’re slicing money from the health service, social services, everything that people depend on. It affects every community in this region. We are all in this together.”

As a parent with a child at the school, the extent of the cuts comes as something of a surprise. There has been no indication of the severity of what’s going on here as far as my son is concerned. School life for him is goes on as normal and teachers continue to do an excellent job. “We try to put a brave face on it and make sure that it has as little impact on the children as possible but it’s how long we can keep this up. Next year we have been told that there will be further cuts to the number of interinos – we will lose 25% from this group of staff.”

What will this reduction mean in practice? “Cuts to lunch and cuts to the support that we give to special needs children.” I discover that the language assistance my son received upon starting at the school will not be available for others if these cuts take place. An invaluable help that enabled him in a year to catch up with his compañeros.

What can be done? ‘We complain and make some noise. We can’t do much else than make sure that everyone knows what is happening and joins us in protesting the erosion of our essential services.”

Given other judicial events linked to the Valencian community, the message of desperation from the schools seems even more poignant.

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