Photo: Chile Student Protest
Chilean university students announced Sunday that in the second week of September they will mobilize again to repeat their demands for improvements in teaching and to reject the government’s education policies.
The new demonstrations were agreed to at a meeting held on the weekend by the Confederation of Students of Chile, or Confech, which represents the country’s university federations. Its main objective is to reject the tax reform pushed forward by the government to finance improvements in the educational system.
That is what Noam Titelman, Confech spokesman and president of the Catholic University Students Federation, or FEUC, told journalists, emphasizing that the government’s reform “does not seek to benefit the middle class or the poorest.”
For the new day of protests, the university students hope once again to have the support of the high school students, professors and social organizations who participated in the protest on Aug. 28.
On that day, some 130,000 people, according to the students - and 50,000, according to the authorities - demonstrated in Santiago for improvements in the educational system.
Since last year, Chilean students have been mobilizing on the high school level to demand that the national government take charge of the administration of elementary and high school education, something that is currently within the purview of the municipalities.
On the university level, they are seeking the end of the profit-making nature of the education offered at many private institutions and a reduction in high educational costs, which must be paid for by taking out loans.
So far, the government has responded with offers of cheaper loans, more scholarships and the tax reform that is being debated in Congress with the aim of collecting up to $1 billion for education, but it has refused to make the structural changes in the system demanded by the students.
Titelman emphasized on Sunday that this is “a tax reform or adjustment that we feel doesn’t at all go in the direction we’ve pushed for.”
“In our country, we have the problem that we all have to pay for the cakes and sandwiches, but just a few are invited to the party,” he added, alluding to a point in the reform that will allow tax breaks on expenses families incur for private education, to which only the wealthiest have access.
Confech also announced for next Tuesday a meeting with professors, high school students and representatives of the National Higher Education Council to ask Education Minister Harald Beyer to respond to their demands with real solutions.