Panama teachers return to classrooms after nearly month-long strike

Panama teachers return to classrooms after nearly month-long strike

PANAMA CITY, Aug 3 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Panamanian public teachers on Tuesday returned to their classrooms after nearly a month-long strike during which they managed to get an increase in the education budget in negotiations with the government and reductions in fuel prices and in basic consumer goods.

“We have almost 90 percent of the schools (operating again), above all the most important ones on the national level, which are resuming (classes), although teachers still need to be transported to areas difficult to access,” said Deputy Education Minister Ricardo Sanchez.

The teacher walkout started what became the largest social protest that Panama had seen in years.

Educators said they were fed up with the soaring prices for gasoline, food and medicine, and wanted more investment in education.

The teachers were eventually joined by construction workers and indigenous groups, as well as frustrated average Panamanians.

They erected highway roadblocks that froze supply routes and caused some shortages.

After more than a week of dialogue mediated by the Roman Catholic Church, the Panamanian government agreed to hold prices on dozens of basic consumer products and a lower cost for gasoline.

The government said it would create mechanisms for the direct purchase of medicines to avoid shortages plaguing public hospitals and promised to set maximum prices for 150 medicines.

Several pending demands remain, including reducing the cost of electricity, increasing government transparency and reducing government corruption.

Before announcing the end to their strike on Monday, teachers held a big rally in the capital.

— NNN-AGENCIES

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