Working at five jobs just to get by

5th August 2005 at 01:00

Paolo Ar!as, 41, has five teaching jobs but can barely afford to live. "I am always exhausted," he said. "I teach 150 different primary school pupils a week and I am in charge of adult education for 600 people."

Mr Ar!as earns 1,000 pesos (pound;204) a month teaching Spanish language and literature in four primary schools in Moreno, a poor town in the rural pampas 40 km from Buenos Aires, and 700 pesos (pound;142) a month as director of the town's adult education institute, School Number 701.

He is typical of the 230,000 state teachers in Argentina, many of whom must do more than one job to survive financially. Nationwide, there have been 143 strikes by teachers this year - the highest number in 14 years and accounting for some 40 per cent of all industrial action in the country.

Mariana Cattaneo, general secretary of the Moreno branch of the General Union of Educational Professionals for the province of Buenos Aires and a history teacher, said: "Some 60 per cent of state teachers live below the official poverty line. Many have to work in three schools - one in the morning and others in the afternoon and the evening - to scrape by.

Secondary teachers in Argentina educate between 300 and 1,000 students a week.

"We have been protesting vigorously this year to get a new federal law for education that improves the resources for our dilapidated schools and enhances our pay and conditions. If there is no progress soon, we'll mount another one-day national strike."

School Number 3 for general basic education in Moreno is in a state of disrepair typical of many state schools. The new roof has been lying, rotting, in the playground for five years and a pile of rubbish stands high in the yard.

Pupil Axel Escariz, 13, said: "I have lost 10 days' education to teachers'

strikes this year."

Susana Urquiza, deputy head, says a key role of the 1,400-pupil school is to provide lunch, which for many children is the main meal of the day. "We receive just one peso (20p) per pupil per day from the authorities for food and just 50 centavos (10p) for milk. It's hard to provide wholesome food."

Although the school's intake has increased by 180 pupils this year, the budget has not changed. "We lack 150 seats for the pupils, so we have to teach them in turns, while the other pupils stand at the side," says Ms Urquiza.

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