Portugal’s president pays overnight stay of ‘homeless’ teacher

57-year-old teacher lives in van because he cannot find ‘accessible rental’

President Marcelo has been one of the first to take part in the campaign “adopt a teacher” – launched this weekend in a bid to help teachers posted hundreds of miles from their homes by the ministry of education, on salaries that cannot pay for the country’s ever-increasing rentals.

The campaign has been kick-started by the situation of physical education teacher Rui Garcia, who knew when he put himself forward for the selection process that he faced being offered a job many miles from his Ponte de Lima home – but he never imagined that he would not qualify for some form of ‘subsidy’, to help with rental costs. This is what transpired: Rui was offered a post in Évora, which he took gladly – but refused any kind of help in securing accommodation.

When he realised his only way of remaining employed as a teacher would be if he lived in his van – he duly equipped it as best he could.

Personal hygiene is performed on school premises; leisure hours are spent cruising local shopping malls and using their internet – but none of this is ideal, particularly for a man approaching his 60s. Thus the ‘protest’ held outside the president’s official residence in Belém yesterday, coinciding with the launching of the ‘adopt a teacher’ campaign.

According to reports, Marcelo’s busy agenda did not allow him to meet Rui Garcia personally, but two aides received him – and assured payment for a guesthouse close by that evening.

“I was able to wash and sleep” in a proper bed, Garcia told Correio da Manhã. “I am very grateful to the president”.

The point of Rui Garcia’s ‘story’ is that poorly-paid teachers (those without permanent placements, and invariably on low salaries) need subsidised accommodation when they are placed hundreds of miles from their homes. The government likes to say this happens, but the reality is often very different.

Since ‘going public’ with his plight, Rui Garcia HAS received an offer from State authorities for a shared T0 … the only problem is that it is an apartment in the Algarve, 300 kms from Évora. Considering the cost of fuel, and the time he would have to spend driving back and forth every day, the offer has had to be declined.

As of today, Sunday, Rui is back in his four-wheeled T0, looking for ‘good parking spots’ and wiling away the hours not spent at school sitting in shopping centres, or enjoying the last rays of October sunshine …

Adopt a Teacher campaign

The essence of this initiative is for citizens (with homes) to take teachers in – a little like the country was encouraged to do with young pilgrims for World Youth Day last summer.

Each teacher adopted by society will be a symbol of the lack of responsibility of the government in resolving unwarranted situations it has created, sending teachers from the North to the South and from the South to the North, without guaranteeing them the right conditions”, says the campaign’s blurb.

FENPROF meantime has said it is approaching other public sector unions, including those representing police, the military, doctors and nurses, to propose a ‘joint approach’ against perceived government intransigence over demands for improved pay and conditions. 

A new national strike has been called by public sector unions for October 27 – timed to coincide with discussion in parliament of the proposed State Budget which has seen endless criticism, for its hiding of extra taxation that will cancel out any ‘gains’ in the Socialists’ pledge to reduce income tax for the lowest pay scales.

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Portugal Resident