WOMEN’S INEQUALITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS IN PANDEMICS TIMES

As it is well-known, International Women’s Day was commemorated on March 8. That historic date at the international level recognizes the arduous struggle of women to achieve equal rights and freedoms, as well as equal labor, educational and political conditions, in a world still characterized by huge gender inequalities. It is an opportunity to make visible the long-standing injustices, but also a reason to highlight the relevant social roles that women have assumed up today.

This struggle has been strengthened over years and has evolved into the worldwide feminist movement, which defends the vindication of the women’s social role, by challenging the existing patriarchal structures, disqualification, discrimination, and exclusion due to gender. Throughout time, this movement has driven a process of getting freedoms as old as the genesis of modernity itself but constitutes a continuous battle against inequality and privileges that some have retained through active-and-systemic violence.

Considering the commemoration takes place in this peculiar pandemic scenario, it is utmost importance to recognize the efforts and contributions that women have made to advance and overcoming this health emergency. Some are behind the vaccines, others behind the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 and others died before Covid-19 emergence, but the work of all of them has helped to learn more about this issue and proposing alternatives to overcome and/or avoid the disease.

A first relevant contribution was given by Rosalind Franklin, a British chemist and crystallographer who contributed significantly to the construction of the double helix model of DNA, developed from her work with X-ray diffraction images. This work later made possible the experimental replication of DNA of bacterium Escherichia coli. In 1962, some years later, his co-workers received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for such important achievement; however, despite her prominent contribution, her name was not included. As a result, the entire field of molecular biology is open and every genetic analyses today are critical for knowledge of the viruses-and-bacteria information for vaccine development and disease treatment. Although it is not a recent discovery, it is one of the main bases for every research has been carried out on SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, including its detection methods, genetic sequencing, and development of vaccines.

Other significant studies were carried out by June Almeida, a Scottish scientist who, thanks to her knowledge of electron microscopy, managed to obtain an accurate image of a virus like influenza but different growing conditions; this virus would be called coronavirus due to its structure like a solar corona. This work was of great importance to identify a group of viruses causing the current sanitary emergency.

On the other hand, Dr. Shi Zhengli, Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and her team had been studying bat-borne viruses for years and already described the coronavirus before the global outbreak of COVID-19. Their work established the pathogen and identified it as a new virus within the same family of SARS with 96.2% genome overlap with the most closely related known coronavirus, which they named SARS-CoV-2.

In short, the research conducted by Sarah Gilbert, a British vaccinologist specializing in development of vaccines against influenza and emerging viral pathogens, was critical to develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, one of the four vaccines approved for marketing against COVID-19. This scientist has been distinguished for her participation to develop other very important vaccines, such as the universal flu vaccine underwent clinical trials in 2011.

Also, the work of Nita Patel, the current head of the scientific team at Novavax, a company whose coronavirus vaccine is currently in the final stages of clinical trials. Although it is not yet ready, experts are already calling it one of the most promising. In fact, all the vaccines under development and already being administered have a female researcher among those mainly responsible for their development. For example, Katalin Karikó, the senior vice-president of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals,  together with other scientists, contributed to develop the wide-spread distribution Pfizer vaccine, which has been also administered to millions of people around the world.

But women’s contributions are not only found in scientific and technological developments hoping to curb the health emergency, also they are on the front lines of care, since according to data of World Health Organization, women make up 70% of the personnel working in the health and social assistance sector. This puts them at the center of the response to COVID-19, even though they often remain under-represented in decision-making and management.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

MYTHS ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES

In a previous column, I proposed an analysis of the positions of leaders around the world who, in the context of the pandemic, have ignored, distorted or manipulated the findings of scientific research on the health emergency, on the origin of the SARS-CoV virus. 2 and on the measures necessary to safeguard the life and integrity of their populations, putting their political and economic interests first.

According to figures reported by the WHO, to date, COVID-19 has left more than 2.5 million fatalities around the world, has put the health systems of countries in check and has forced governments to carry out closures of different economic sectors, as well as total and partial confinements of their populations, in order to reduce the speed of spread of the virus. To this extent, since the beginning of the health emergency, the richest countries, their academics and different pharmaceutical multinationals have invested enormous efforts in research that results in the development of vaccines that, when supplied, generate the production of necessary antibodies in the body. to combat the development of the virus, generate immunity and, therefore, prevent the progress of the disease.

To this day, different types of vaccines have been built and many others continue to be developed. At the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, the existence of 14 vaccines that were in phase 3 of the clinical trials was reported; Some have already successfully passed this stage and have been authorized by WHO for distribution, others continue in the process. On December 31, 2020, the WHO issued an Emergency Use List (EUL) for the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 (BNT162b2) vaccine, making it the first to receive this validation since the outbreak began a year ago. Subsequently, on February 15, 2021, the EUL was issued for two versions of the AstraZeneca / Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and SKBio. Consequently, several countries around the world have begun their mass vaccination program, the WHO has called for each government to accelerate its own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine, as well as to facilitate equitable global access to the vaccine. herself. These authorizations also allow UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization to purchase the vaccine for distribution to countries that need it.

Issues related to this are frequently disclosed by the media and addressed on social networks; in the latter, all kinds of content circulate and are widely disseminated. Thus, an avalanche of misinformation has been unfolded about risks related to vaccines, their lack of security, conspiracy theories and domination strategies that present apparently qualified arguments against the vaccination processes. These anti-vaccine movements are several years old, but have reached their peak due to the pandemic and focus their activity on the dissemination of information that is not verified and difficult to verify from a scientific point of view, however, depending on its scope, it can affect countries’ vaccination coverage and, in the case of COVID-19, prolonging the imminent risk of contagion for much longer.

The second thing that must be taken into account is that for a vaccine or drug to be released on the market, it must undergo clinical trial phases that provide information on its reliability and effectiveness in treating diseases in the human body. There are three phases that this process comprises once the risks that can be determined without testing in humans have been ruled out; The first stage contemplates the administration of doses to carefully selected healthy subjects. In this phase, it is intended to rule out adverse health consequences due to the vaccine for the general population. Once it has been proven that it has no adverse incidence in healthy subjects, the second phase carries out trials in carefully selected sick people; finally, the third and final phase administers doses in selected patients with less strict criteria, to evaluate their effects. Once these 3 phases have been overcome and if the results are satisfactory, it is administered in all types of patients.

Other myths associated with vaccines, particularly against COVID-19, are related to the possibility of changing the genetic information of the person to whom it is administered, the insertion of a technological device that allows tracking and monitoring, the intention of decimating the population. worldwide, among many others. As we have already seen, each of these claims could easily be disputed and refuted based on the existing data. On the other hand, the myths exposed are paradoxical in a scenario like the Colombian one, in which there is no certainty about the availability and access to vaccines for the entire population, which contradicts the arguments that weigh it as a strategy of domination.

That is why education assumes a great challenge and a relevant role, not only to elucidate those arguments that have the evidence to be disseminated from those that do not, but to contribute to the formation of a culture of care in all citizens.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

WHERE ARE THE UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS IN THE VACCINATION PLAN?

As is widely known, the COVID-19 pandemic has its origin in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Only a few months passed after the appearance of the first infected in Wuhan (China), so that at the beginning of 2020 the genetic sequence of the virus was established and with it a significant number of investigations emerged aimed at establishing the mechanism used by the virus to infect humans.

Today we know that the fundamental key to the infection mechanism lies in the S protein that makes up the spicules of the coronavirus and that is recognized by the ECA2 receptor present in our cells, in this way the virus enters our body and begins a complex replication process . Understanding all of these mechanisms dazzles human intelligence and is essential to get to the point where we find ourselves today with the production and application of various vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the hope was to obtain the vaccines that would contribute to solving the health crisis, slowly recovering normality in social life. Despite the fact that this moment seems to be arriving in Colombia, in addition to there being several questions about the effectiveness and forcefulness of the National Vaccination Plan, the question arises about the population groups that were selected in each of the proposed phases.

The effective implementation of the National Vaccination Plan would seem to open the hope to return to the presence in the educational centers of the country, since clearly the pandemic has begun to take its effects on the training of children and young people.

To that extent and in various scenarios, the possibility of implementing a model of presence with alternation has been raised that allows students in basic and secondary education to return gradually and safely to educational institutions. In Bogotá, for example, since February 15, 2021, alternation plans began to be enabled in public and private schools, as well as in higher education. However, despite the long-awaited start of vaccination, the uncertainty about returning to the classroom and the impact it may have on teachers, students and their families is wide. The Colombian Federation of Educators (FECODE) and the District Association of Education Workers (ADE) have repeatedly expressed their rejection of returning to classes in person, due to the risk it implies for the health and lives of the students.

The executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, requested in an official statement in December 2020, the governments of the countries, to prioritize teachers in the vaccination process against COVID-19, as this can help protect them against the virus It will allow them to teach in person and will ultimately serve to keep educational institutions open. Countries like Chile have already started their vaccination processes in teachers over 60 years of age.

In Colombia, the vaccination process has begun so far, on February 16 barely 50,000 doses of vaccines arrived for 25,000 citizens. The Vaccination Plan includes five prioritization phases and the teachers of basic and secondary education are in the third, while the university professors are not prioritized in any, which is striking because, like all teachers, in an eventual return to the presence would be permanently exposed to school spaces with a significant flow of people and a good part of the university teaching union is outside the ages that have been prioritized in the first phases. In this sense, what will happen to university professors who have to go back to work and are not vaccinated?

There are no certainties about the course of the process or about the time it will take to cover the first phase, much less reach herd immunity. Meanwhile, educational processes will continue to depend on the possibilities of connectivity, the particular conditions of educational institutions, and the digital and technological resources that students and their families have access to for their training processes.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

ANTI-SCIENCE PRESIDENTS AMID THE PANDEMIC

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic represents one of the greatest challenges that humanity has faced as a species in recent times. The crisis posed by the health emergency, which has been in effect for almost a year, has exacerbated the social gaps and inequalities in the different countries of the world, putting their health systems on the ropes in the fight for patient care and the partial containment of contagion to the rest of the population.

To that extent, governments of different countries, public and private research centers, researchers and academics have made enormous efforts to make available to the population treatments, vaccines and detection, prevention and care plans that allow containing the impact of this disease. The development of prototypes and technological advances for the manufacture of medical supplies and instruments and prevention materials has also been required, not to mention all those fields of research that are not directly related to first-line emergency care, but that have development and innovation required to address situations in different areas due to the pandemic.

In contrast, in an unusual and unusual way, the health emergency has also revealed the rejection of science and scientific evidence by some leaders of the American continent and the world. The pandemic has reflected the dire consequences of these political positions and the risk they imply for the population.

During 2020, it became common to hear about the negligent policies for managing the pandemic promoted by Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the United States, which prioritized the economy over the health of their population. Trump argued the need to reach November without an economy in ruins, complained to China and the WHO about the conspiracy responsible for the development of the virus despite scientific studies that point to its probable zoonotic origin, and recommended in an irresponsible and dangerous way “Miracle remedies” against the disease, without any scientific evidence and without taking into account the side effects of these substances. For his part, Bolsonaro, in his denialist stance, classified COVID-19 as a “little flu”, fired two health ministers and encouraged demonstrations against confinements, preventing a more appropriate management of the health emergency in Brazil, which he was able to save thousands of lives. The consequences are reflected in the number of fatalities, which in Brazil exceeded 221,000 and in the United States rises to 448,000. An authoritarian tendency is increasingly notorious that disdains reason and enlightened thought that today’s society boasts, arranging arguments and information according to its convenience.

But this way of approaching reality is not new, in 2018 the president of Brazil denied the depredation and deforestation of the Amazon, despite the satellite images that proved it. Similarly, both Bolsonaro and Trump have taken denialist positions on climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to the point that they withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, to name a few. . These political positions, while incredible at times, are far from harmless.

In an unprecedented situation such as the health emergency we are witnessing today, these political positions are worryingly reminiscent of characteristics of the European fascisms of 80 years ago.

Undoubtedly, the difficult time we are going through as a society and those outbreaks of anti-science denialism pose different challenges for us regarding the reconfiguration of the university-society relationship, beyond training. Universities from our missionary activities, in addition to contributing to the development of ambitious innovation exercises to address social, political, economic and environmental problems, we must also contribute to the understanding of scientific arguments by the bulk of the population, helping to prevent the ignorance and uncertainty of situations such as those we currently face from becoming a political fortress for authoritarian minds and those with a desire for power.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

THE EDUCATOR OF EDUCATORS BETS ON THE RENEWAL OF ITS INSTITUTIONAL ACCREDITATION

Within the framework of the university autonomy established by the Political Constitution of Colombia and by the provisions of Law 30 of 1992, public universities have been working in a voluntary exercise to gain recognition of the academic excellence of their missionary commitments to society , after obtaining institutional accreditation. In this sense, the house of teachers and educators in the country, decided to work hard and autonomously in this direction, to demonstrate the advances and improvements that the University has had during the last six years, understanding the accreditation of programs and institutional accreditation as a permanent self-evaluation process aimed at establishing strengths and weaknesses in teaching, research, internationalization, social projection and infrastructure, also identifying its challenges and possibilities to establish improvement actions that allow the University to be academically strengthened.

Since 2014, the National Pedagogical University intensified the laborious process of organizing and systematizing the information necessary to begin the path to institutional accreditation. After hard work, a rigorous self-evaluation process and a favorable concept from academic peers that highlighted, among other things, the broad historical trajectory and social impact of the National Pedagogical University on Colombian education and teacher training , its efforts to maintain a qualified and excellent offer, in accordance with the needs and educational and social contexts of the country, its structured admission process consistent with the nature of the institution, the good performance of its students in standardized tests, its commitment with comprehensive, interdisciplinary and flexible training both in undergraduate and graduate programs and continuing education, and its marked impact on public policies in education; On August 17, 2016, the National Pedagogical University received through Resolution 16715 of the Ministry of National Education, the high quality institutional accreditation for a period of four years.

From there, we have continued to work permanently to improve our quality, through the improvement plans that have been formulated (2014-2018) and the self-evaluation process carried out during 2019. The latter shows notorious favorable transformations that the University has developed, such as the high-quality accreditation of practically all of its undergraduate programs and most of its postgraduate programs, within which the Inter-Institutional Doctorate in Education holds this recognition for 10 years.

The expansion of national and international ties with organizations from different countries in Latin America, North America, Central America and Europe stands out. It also highlights the increase in the scope of these agreements, since they not only contemplate the mobility of teachers and students, but also the internationalization of the curriculum through the development of training programs, diplomas, courses, professional practices, or participation in interuniversity projects linked to the strengthening of internationalization in institutions in Europe and Latin America.

In terms of academic productivity and periodic publications of the University, notable advances were also evidenced with the increase in the publication of articles in national and international journals (indexed or homologated) and of research product books.

Another of the outstanding aspects has to do with the qualitative and quantitative advances regarding the services and supports offered by the Department of Wellbeing to the university community, derived from the implementation of its different programs, since in practically all services between 2014 and in 2018 an average increase of 10% was achieved in the number of people served, services provided or participation in activities.

Among the documented issues, the improvements in the technological resources available to the University today and the large amount of investments made in the improvement of the physical plant, the adaptation of the new Paulo Freire cultural center, the restoration of the Casa de la Vida: Museum of Natural History, the structural interventions and adjustments made in the library, the restaurant, the cafeteria, the swimming pool, the blocks, A, B, C and P, the facilities of the Nogal, National Park and Valmaria. In terms of endowments, significant investments were also made with the acquisition of equipment, software for academic, administrative and research management, furniture and specialized laboratory equipment, computer equipment and instruments.

We invite all teachers and all people interested in education to continue accompanying the National Pedagogical University in the construction of this political and pedagogical project of the Nation.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

 

UPN – A STEP TOWARDS ZERO ENROLMENT

From the beginning of the pandemic generated by the COVID-19 disease, from the State University System (SUE), public universities of the country have put all our scientific, technical, technological and human competences to meet the crisis and thus support the fight against the spread of the virus. From the beginning, we have also expressed our commitment to the health and education authorities to contain the spread of the respiratory virus by promoting individual and collective care measures, keeping the universities in operation and implementing various strategies so that our students could continue with their educational processes at their homes, guaranteeing their integrity and families.

In that regard, we adopted measures to remote work and concluded the first semester of 2020 from academic activities through information and communication technologies –ICTs– enabling the accomplishment of our missionary tasks.

From the beginning of the emergency, we also warned the National Government and the Ministries of Education and Information and Communication Technologies, about the need of the timely efforts in order to raise the required resources in order to meet the data, Internet and computer equipment needs by the students of public universities who have been mostly affected by the pandemic. However, these requirements to a great extent have had to be addressed and met supportively from each of the institutions and university communities despite the financial difficulties faced by students and their families.

In that same line, students, professors, workers and graduates we have been proposing in various scenarios the need for a zero enrollment for all students in our university communities for the second semester of the year since the contexts and the real dynamics resulting from the pandemic have left many people homeless, without means of subsistence and, in many cases, without resources to cover, although subsidized, the values of tuition.

As a result of the different declarations and mobilizations, the National Government created during the emergency the Solidarity Fund for Education, in order to leverage resources to reduce the extent of the effects of the crisis in the education sector, including economic aid for payment of tuition fees for young people in vulnerable status in public higher education institutions. While these resources have been important in helping to 2020-2 zero-enrollment goal at the country’s public universities, they are not enough to guarantee it as a measure covering 100% of the student population; institutions have had to ask for help to district, municipal and departmental entities in order to expand the benefit or, as in the case of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, raise its own resources for this purpose.

We understand that facing unprecedented times unprecedented measures must be taken. So we once again call on the National Government to make the required efforts and raise enough resources to allow our students and those of all public institutions of higher education to continue their studies in the coming semesters, since as we see the economic recovery will be slow, besides unemployment levels in the country have triggered about 21.4% according to DANE figures for May, and more and more students require support while minimizing the financial power of universities.

In short, we also highlight the need to continue working on generating structural changes in the financing model of public higher education in the country, which continues to be the root and cause of the structural crisis that institutions are currently experiencing and which has been compounded by the pandemic.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

 

UPN OPEN AND SUPPORTIVE

Academic communities around the world have published numerous and important texts on the implications of the pandemic in educational processes, written about the new normal, curricular flexibility and the challenges of the 21st century school in unprecedented conditions are some of the topics that are addressed. Similarly, in our country there is an important number of reflections on the challenges posed by these particular conditions to continue guaranteeing education as a fundamental right for children, youth and adults in Colombia, the difficulties that exist in terms of connectivity, the limitations to develop the training processes mediated by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), given the insufficient conditions and preparation for it. Despite all these difficulties, the National Pedagogical University has continued to work constantly to maintain an open and supportive university.

So far this year and since the beginning of the health emergency, we have managed to carry out more than ten actions aimed at the permanence of our students, highlighting among them, solidarity campaigns for market deliveries and equipment loans, facilitating that our students can continue their training process; All this contributed to the number of cancellations in 2020-1 being lower than the other semesters, also to the majority of students being able to finish their studies and make their payments with great efforts, only 342 students out of the 8558 registered for 2020-1 could not cover the full value of their tuition. This implies a total investment of $ 3,833,844,106, of which $ 2,122,934,623 are from the University and $ 1,710,909,483 were provided by the National Government.

Based on these important actions, we were able to show that, against all expectations, the number of cancellations during 2020-1 was below the immediately previous semester. On the other hand, despite the conditions and difficulties posed by the pandemic, and thanks to the tuition assistance plan designed by the University, for 2020-2 we have managed to maintain the number of registered students. This shows that despite the difficulties and despite the great crisis, the University continues to serve the country to train the teachers required by the different territories.

Faced with the discussions that exist about the quality of teacher training in Colombia, according to the results of standardized tests, it is important to highlight that the discussion raised is much broader than the results themselves, it implies the analysis of the contexts in each training scenario and the role of the teacher in our society. It is also important to mention that the National Pedagogical University has stood out for its performance in these standardized tests, with results that are above the national average.

As it has done since its inception, the University continues to work and support the fight for quality public education for all, because according to the thought of Juan Amos Comenio, education and knowledge should be universal, being this the tool that would allow to reshape the world in harmony and elevate man towards a true humanity, a thought that we return to in the commemoration of the 350 years since the death of this great teacher. All the efforts and achievements made during this 2020 are special not only because of the particular and unprecedented characteristics that we go through as a species and as a society, but also because they take place within the framework of the 65 years that the University is commemorating and the 93 years of training teachers that our country and our society require.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

 

STANDARIZED TESTS AS A INDICATOR OF QUALITY IN TEACHER TRAINING?

One of the most critical evaluation debates refers to massive census tests, tests and standardized curricular models in order to measure the quality of education based on standard categories established by the world and business logic, consistent with a Technical rationality that prioritizes measurable and comparable results, over processes and contextual particularities of the various educational environments.

To that extent, the discourse of quality in the educational context enters from industrial and economic contexts in search of ends that do not necessarily contribute to the resolution of the social problems of each context, marginalizing those that due to their characteristics and situations do not they can meet the demands imposed by the measurement models. To that extent, the evaluation is used as a quantitative tool to census and categorize the knowledge and “skills” developed during the training processes at each level, moving away from its characteristic and training possibility. This is the scenario in which the Saber 11 and Saber Pro tests enter as instruments for measuring and categorizing Colombian education.

Recently, the Laboratory of Economics of Education of the Javeriana University (LEE) published a report, published by El Tiempo, on the results of the State tests of higher education students in the area of ​​educational sciences. In this report they suggest that one of the main problems of the educational system would be related to the teacher training process, while the results evidenced in the 2019 Saber Pro tests, by students of careers belonging to educational sciences obtained a score globally below the national average.

However, statements such as these, far from helping to overcome the difficulties of the educational system and to correct the existing gaps from one scenario to another, globalize the contexts and prevent addressing the issue from its multiple edges, since generalization prevents analyzing and addressing the issues. The needs of the educational processes and teacher training programs in the regions, and may bias the taking of government measures and quality policies on teacher training programs, which, far from helping to overcome difficulties, exacerbate them; As happened in 2016 with the issuance of decree 2041 that required undergraduate programs to be accredited under penalty of losing their qualified records, without offering any guarantee so that the required conditions could be generated. In the national context, this implied the closure of the supply of teacher training in various regions of the country and forced the Government to make the conditions more flexible so that many more did not have to close. Finally, the situation also led to the lifting of this mandatory measure in 2019.

An analysis that we propose to the Javeriana University and to those who focus on these results of the Saber tests is a deep look at the contexts, processes, and levels of training of those who are grouped in the area of ​​educational sciences. That the results be analyzed according to these necessary distinctions. A very interesting comparison has even been raised by Icfes itself, carrying out an exercise to estimate the added value of university higher education institutions, analyzing the results of the Saber 11 tests and the results of the Saber Pro tests of the students of an institution in such a way that the contribution of the university in the training processes of its students can be identified. The Icfes has all the information that allows for much more detailed, contextualized analyzes that make visible fundamental variables such as the socioeconomic conditions of our young people.

Discussions on educational evaluation must be broad and careful not to enter hasty conclusions that ignore the multiple elements that influence educational quality and that irresponsibly mark a wrong path for public policies in education, as well as an unfair assessment of the processes training of teachers in Colombia.


Rector, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

@LeoMartinezUPN

BEGINNING OF THE SEMESTER GREETING TO THE WHOLE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY

To begin, I would like to reiterate a special thanks to all the workers, officials, students and professors who have put forth their maximum commitment and fight to keep the University open, supportive and critical in the face of the country’s problems. The National Pedagogical University continues to work collectively with all instances to be able to strengthen solidarity processes as evidenced by the campaigns that have been carried out to deliver more markets and financial support to our students, including the Great solidarity bingo that allowed that many officials were integrated with their families and we could collect more than 500 markets to favor the most needy students of the university community. We will continue working for these spaces of solidarity that allow us together as an institution, to continue facing difficult times.

In the same way, we will continue working in the defense of public education, for free higher education, which depends on bodies such as the Government of the Republic and the National Congress. This implies a total investment of $ 3,833,844,106, of which $ 2,122,934,623 are from the University and $ 1,710,909,483 were provided by the National Government.

The University has also arranged humanitarian assistance for the student protesters on 72nd Street. In addition, last Saturday, September 5, a five-hour meeting was held directly with them to listen carefully to them with the mediation of the president of FECODE and the representative of the Chamber María José Pizarro.

In accordance with the progress made in this meeting, it is expected that the students will return home and be safe and sound.

Finally, the request of professors representatives was attended to not give way to a proposal for a statute that had been working on the disciplinary issues of occasional professors and professors. Attention will be focused on working on regulations that make it possible to address the problems of gender violence and sexual harassment allegedly presented by professors and occasional professors involved.

We invite the entire university community to continue advancing in the development of the programs and projects consigned in the Institutional Development Plan 2020-2024, which are aimed at strengthening academic excellence, positioning the university both at the national level as international, to the construction of peace and environmental training.

We continue with the commitment to defend and continue to build the educating university of educators to strengthen education as a right, the construction of peace and to address the problems that underlie and become more acute with the health emergency.


“The word is not the privilege of some people, it is the right of all”
Paulo Freire

Leonardo Fabio Martínez Pérez
Rector
Bogotá, D.C., September 8, 2020

PANELA IS NOT PATENTED: RECTOR´S COLUMN – EL ESPECTADOR

By: Leonardo Fabio Martínez Pérez

In our country, panela is a food of high cultural, gastronomic, economic and social relevance. Although its production and consumption occurs in many places in the world, Colombia is the second world producer, after India, and the first consumer. According to the National Federation of Panela Producers (Fedepanela), each Colombian consumes about 19 kilos a year and panela accounts for 2.18% of household food expenditure. This gastronomic delight present in many of our typical foods, in addition to being deeply rooted in the Colombian tradition, turns out to be the economic sustenance of many peasant, Afro and indigenous communities throughout the country.

Thus, in the national territory the large sugar producers and their large monocultures coexist with an important tradition of panela production that continues to be the main engine of the commercialization of this product, and that not only allows the obtaining of subsistence income for families , but manages to articulate the dynamics of life of the communities around the plantation of sugarcane and the production from artisanal mills and collective organization. Often, several neighbors collectively own an artisanal mill, with mills powered by small motors or by animal power. In addition, panela turns out to be a product that generates added value to farms, because it implies the transformation of sugarcane from small peasant plots to a consumer product that improves the economy of families, since sugarcane, when commercialized, has values very low on the market.

The bulk of panela production comes from small peasants, large-scale farms, that is, with extensions of land greater than 50 hectares, account for only 5% of total production. In contrast, the world market has increased significantly in recent years. The work of panela producers has caused the growth of exports; Only between January and July 2019, there was an increase of 40%, going from 3,503 tons to 4,911, represented by 1.7 million dollars, according to figures from Fedepanela.

However, in recent days there has been a strong controversy in the country associated with several national and international applications that would seek to patent the traditional procedure for the preparation of this important product of our gastronomy. The panela unions indicate that their activity would be threatened if these patents were approved, since the request of the businessman Jorge Enrique González to patent a production method very similar to that of panela remains firm before the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce.

The patent filed by González seeks to license a method to process sugar cane and preserve policosanol, that is, a mixture of serous substances present in the plant, during the production of a drink based on cane juice. This industrial process resembles almost completely, according to Fedepanela, practices that for generations have protected panellists in Colombia.

Dignidad Panelera and Dignidad Campesina, also opponents of the patent, indicate that it puts at risk the income of more than 350,000 families that generate 1,700,000 direct jobs, which is equivalent to 12% of the economically active rural population. The granting of the patent would promote the monopolization of panela in the country.

Defending the cultural production of panela and preventing it from being patented rescues a cultural tradition that is more than one hundred years old and encourages the community organization of multiple families that results in a dignified life for the communities. To that extent, we call on the SIC and Colombian society to prevent private interests from taking away this knowledge that belongs to all Colombians.

@LeoMartinezUPN
* Rector, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional