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Monday, 30 November, 2020

Six Venezuelan teachers told how surviving on less than $2 a month

A slew of new protests staged by teachers in the states of Lara, Falcon, and Yaracuy. Six teachers tell how they survive on a salary of fewer than two dollars a month and how many times they have had to go to bed on an empty stomach.

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Dario Gomez is 40 years old and has been a teacher for the last 15. He is a teacher in Barquisimeto with a doctorate in social sciences. But, since 2018, he has been divided between the classrooms and the warehouse of a pizza box factory, where he works as a stevedore and makes moving stuff around in one day the same amount that he earns in two weeks as a teacher. “From 2017 until now, I have lost 30 kilos,” he told El Pitazo.

On the night of Wednesday, November 4, as his colleagues protested all over Venezuela, Professor Dario had only breakfast and was mulling his options to cook a meager diner meal. Although he had food to cook a meal, he had not had any cooking gas for five months, and his electric stove is out of order. When there is electricity, mind you.

“I do not have any firewood, and it is raining, so I can not lit a stove. I had breakfast, and I am going to try to make an arepa, so I do not go to bed without dinner,” she said.

You must read It is not feasible teaching for $2 a month: Venezuelan teachers say

Gomez stopped buying meat by the kilogram and now only buys 500 grams or whatever he can afford with 300,000 bolivars (base teacher salary, of around $0.75) to include a little protein in his diet, he also gave up the ham he used to buy. “I make one and a half million bolivars per month with a doctorate and a master degree and seniority bonus,” said Gomez.

Children of teachers emigrate

Teachers like Dennise Castillo, from Coro, Falcon State, had to accept that one of her children, barely 19 years old, emigrated to Peru. With his work abroad, the young man sends the remittances that she uses for purchases for her and food for her younger daughter, who is 17 years old and has started studying medicine.

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But remittances and her salary are not enough: she makes and sells guava sweets on the dangerous streets of Venezuela, amid a COVID-19 pandemic. And sometimes, not even her side hustle manages to cover for all that the mother and daughter household needs.

Castillo has been a high-school teacher for 13 years in the area of Spanish and Language. Like many other teachers, she trusted that her vocation to teach would allow her to overcome any setback that might arise.

“We never lived in luxury, but we could afford to pay for a fortnightly whim, but for the last three years, everything has been uphill,” said Dennise

Carmen Garcia: “You can not educate if you are hungry”

Carmen Garcia is a teacher with more than 15 years of service in primary education in Punto Fijo. With her salary raised her family. Now is not even able to eat.

It is no secret that we teachers go to bed without eating. The salary is not even enough to pay for the bus tickets, much less to pay for data plans and to give classes to the different sections over WhatsApp. It is so difficult,” she said.

On September 16 and the beginning of the new school year, the persecution of the teachers began. They got called to a meeting at the school, and the supervisor warned that those who did not come to teach would have their pay suspended.

“We have a salary of two dollars, and things are getting worse. The salary is not enough for us at all. I don’t even earn enough to buy food for a single day,” she lamented.

The teacher said that they received food and phone money from parents of the students as part of an effort to keep them in the classroom.

20 kilos less

Hunger is what teachers and professors in the state of Yaracuy go through, and that is what they said during their protest in the streets of San Felipe.

Jose Antonio Naranjo, a retired teacher, explained he weighs 20 kilos less because his salary is only enough for a package of flour and a half kilogram of grains a month.

Doctors, nurses, teachers, and retirees from Barquisimeto joined the call for a national protest this November 4. Photo courtesy of Yelitza Figueroa Rivas.

To solve the food situation in his home, he relies on the charity of a niece.

Osalida Alejos, a retired teacher and member of the Education Teachers’ Union, acknowledged that teachers are in extreme poverty. “I have lost 10 to 15 kilos, I have lost clothes and muscle mass, but I am still fighting for my salary rights,” she told El Pitazo.

Keyla Castillo, an active teacher, explained that when teachers get sick, they do not have the money to pay for their medical expenses, nor do they have insurance. “The salary is not enough for us at all (…). I feel frustrated,” she said.

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