Interview: Disapproved in education and dialogue
News • September 28, 2017
Jorge Acevedo, professor and research specialist in political communication and communication for development, analyzes in depth the main components around the teacher’s national strike.
For more than 65 days, Peru has been hit by a cessation of teachers in almost all of its regions. At its critical point, half of the teachers went on strike. Since the 1980s, Peru did not experience such an extensive, confrontational and ambiguous social manifestation between the Government and its social representation. Does it reflect that the economic miracle of Peru has not reached all? Is education and dialogue not a priority on the political agenda? We spoke with Jorge Acevedo, a professor and research specialist in political communication and communication for development, who analyzed in depth the main components of this conflict and the role of political communication within.
What has shown the politics and social representation of teachers in this national strike?
The teacher’s strike has not only put the government in check, it has also represented an important organized expression of discomfort of a society sector which is regarding the economic model, the inability of politicians and the State to improve the redistribution of wealth, through better wages and other working conditions. Such a long strike has clearly shown the political inability of the government to resolve a conflict, communicate and dialogue. The Government’s technocracy presents serious limitations to prosecute conflicts that have a political character. In the face of multiple interests, even opposition political forces have unveiled their ambition to be able to negotiate legislative prebends with a group of teachers.
In this scenario, how has each of the main actors are seen by the public opinion?
The urban – rural survey by GFK in August 2017 showed very interesting results. 64% of respondents believe teachers have fair wage demands. And 72% thought that the government is handling the conflict with teachers badly. Public opinion perceives erratic handling of the strike and, this fact added to others, has made that the approval of the government to drop to 19%. At the same time, 84% of the respondents affirmed according to the assessment to enter and ascend in the Public Teaching Career, which differs from the request of the teachers. That is, for the public opinion both themes are compatible, complementary. What the Government would have to do is, first and foremost, to address progressively the fair demands of teachers, and to improve the system of evaluation of them, with clear criteria and mechanisms.
From your point of view, how do you rate the communication management that the Government has deployed?
The President, and many of his ministers have serious communication problems that stem from the way they conceive and execute their roles as a government. A government must politically lead the conflicts, and in general, the development of the country. In order to do this, it must rely on the knowledge and alternative solutions proposed by the bureaucracy at its highest levels, which is, the technicians, not the other way around. There is a political problem in the background the Government does not understand, or does not want to understand, the many problems of the country and does not make an effort to meet and dialogue with the different social actors. In the case of this strike, its speech has been counterproductive by stigmatizing teachers and their demands and denouncing links with MOVADEF, a legal organization linked to the Sendero Luminoso (a terrorist group that caused a wave of historical violence in Peru), which was a serious mistake. However, the media have not developed an unfavorable scenario for the President. Only one sector evidenced and amplified the political and communicative errors of the president and his ministers.
Are we facing a social phenomenon that will be more recurrent in the country?
This situation essentially expresses two phenomena. On one hand, the discomfort of a social sector, regarding the economic model and the serious limitations that the State has to implement wage policies that are much more redistributive than the current ones. And, on the other hand, it expresses a crisis of leadership of SUTEP, the main guild representing teachers, evidence the emergence of a sector that has had the virtue of collecting and representing the main demands of tens of thousands of teachers. Both phenomena require a political response from the Government; and in general, the political and business class.
In this context, what communicative lessons have this paralysis left us?
Communication management is key, but more important is to make good policy decisions. For both, it is a necessary exercise to put oneself in the other’s place. That is, to ask why the strike and its unusual vigor, what are the problems and demands behind, what is the situation of teachers working in, for example, a rural area. The government does not have a prepared political and technical cadre or the political will of some ministers to listen, dialogue and negotiate. A type of “technical” rationality, which is not neutral, is not enough to deal with very complex social and political problems.
How can spaces be managed to ensure real participation and representativeness of social groups?
There is a lack of political will to build other links with various social sectors. It is okay to dialogue with investment entrepreneurs, but it is also necessary to dialogue with unions, social organizations, and indigenous communities. One cannot govern thinking only of one type of economic efficiency. The teachers’ strike has shown us that there are leaders who may have formal credentials or legal recognition, but not enough legitimacy in terms of social and political representation. The government has to incorporate, from the outset, not only formally recognized leaders, but representative leaders.