Observations and proposals discussed during the CRES Conference will be incorporated into the final CRES documents

Pedro-Guajardo3

The organizers of CRES, Francisco Tamarit and Pedro Henriquez Guajardo, reaffirmed that the spirit of the Conference is democratic, as evidenced by the debates and discussions during the last days.

Round tables, forums and symposia marked the agenda of the Regional Conference on Higher Education (CRES 2018). The Conference, which started last Monday, 6 November, evidenced an active participation from the diverse actors representing various sectors of academia and social groups. There were rich observations, comments and criticisms from all participants, contributing to a democratic and open debate. The organizers of CRES noted that all these contributions and observations will be incorporated into the final documents of the Conference, which will end this week at the National University of Córdoba and Orfeo Superdomo in Argentina.

"Criticism for us is fundamental. Let's incorporate the suggestions and proposals that have come up at each table, at each symposium, at each side-conference, at each forum. We will work on these contributions and then publish a book documenting the richness of the exchanges and discussions," explained Francisco Tamarit, general coordinator of CRES.

Three documents will be produced as a result of the Conference. Today, Thursday, a statement will be released, which will reflect the spirit of CRES. The document will be presented during the closing ceremony of the conference and will be read out loud in its entirety. In addition to the final conference statement, two additional documents will be elaborated: One which will gather all the recommendations of the Conference, and a second which will present all the proposals gathered throughout the sessions of the Conference.

Systematization

"Contributions are an essential component of the thematic proposals. All these contributions have been recorded for future distribution. We will analyze criticisms and observations, we will work to catalog them, and all this material will published", said the director of the UNESCO Institute for Higher Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNESCO-CESALC) and coordinator of CRES 2018, Pedro Henríquez Guajardo.

According to the organizers of CRES 2018, this systematization will be completed in two or three months. Working groups will then catalog all contributions, leading to the publication of a specific book. "Critical comments and contributions are most welcome. CRES is democratic process. I believe that we have demonstrated throughout these days the participatory character of our proceedings, which have defined the very essence of this Conference. We have indeed proven that we need to abandon the myth of any special academic enlightenment," says Guajardo.

The Participants Perspective

The rector of the Bolivian Indigenous University Quimua Casimiro Huanca, Mário Fuentes Teran, noted that CRES was an important opportunity for indigenous peoples. For him, it is important that the classical universities, the conventional universities open their doors to indigenous peoples. "But it is also fundamental that if we enter indigenous, we want to exit indigenous. We do not want the whitewashing of minds because we want to get out and get involved with the communities and support this debate process that we must have as a region. We are putting ourselves out front with full force, with all the energy, so that we are part and parcel of the declaration of CRES 2018," he said.

Sergio Hernandez, the pedagogical coordinator of Universidad Campesina Indígena en Red in Mexico, pointed out that higher education in Latin America is rooted in a European, medieval model, and this reality is often not questioned. For him, it is "something already established, a given and that has to continue as is". But it is fundamental, according to Hernandez, that experiences like the Universidad Campesina are valued and supported. "We are a university where some principles have been transformed. In 1918, here in Cordoba, there was a discourse about extension. And we now speak of an extended university. But we do not do extension models because we extend ourselves to the concrete actors of our region. It is not a full-fledged model. It is a model of dialogue, "he says.

Josefa Sannes, student from the University of the Republic in Uruguay, considers that all the discussion of the CRES was very relevant, but she criticizes the need for a more equal participation between genders. "Most of them were men. The themes that dealt with gender and feminism were vague. In my view, they should have addressed the issue further. Machismo is within the faculties and often gives us fear and there is no indication of how to act in these situations. Many women even change their courses or do not want to study and this makes their careers difficult. This matter needed to be addressed in more depth at CRES," she says.

Girard Vernaza, rector of Universidad Técnica Luis Vargas Torres of Ecuador, points out that "the world is diverse and plural, there are many social groups and no group should be marginalised." But he fears for the construction of segmented, isolated proposals. "We want to work in a serious and responsible higher education system that can attend and understand all segments in the society. I do not think that we should be thinking of creating, for example, universities exclusively for blacks or for indigenous people. If we do so, we are excluding, discriminating some for the benefit of others. The exercise of CRES must be reverse, in which all diversity can be united with their differences, contributing to the development of the region and the world," he explains.

Right to have rights

On Wednesday, around noon, there was a demonstration of approximately one hour in front of the Pabellón Argentina, space that receives activities of CRES. A group of about 300 people, the vast majority of women, mobilized and spoke out in favor of legal abortion. The bill, which was being appreciated by the Argentine deputies, was approved on Thursday morning by 129 votes in favor and 125 against. Now it will be submitted to the Senate. For one of the demonstrators, Professor Luciana Echevarría, this is a historic day of mobilization throughout the country. "Legal abortion is a women's right. It is not only a matter of public health, of social justice, it is a democratic human right to decide on the destiny of one's own body. A right to have a right, "says Echevarría, an activist with the Socialist Workers' Movement (MST) She, who was a pre-candidate for the Argentine primary elections in August 2017 for the House of Representatives and the Senate (PASO, Open Primaries Simultaneous and Obligatory), emphasizes that the choice to hold a rally during CRES 2018 was not an occasional one. "Universities, especially public universities, are fundamental to the struggle for rights. They must speak out in favor of democratic rights and against patriarchy. And the Movement in 1918, here in Cordoba, was an example for the whole world," he said.

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