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Chile: public protest against a private education system

Sarah Varnam

October 5, 2012

High school and university students in Chile have been protesting for over a year. Thousands of students have marched through the capital and other cities. They are conducting casseroles, banging pots and pans to draw awareness to their cause.
There are reports of violence by both students and police, including burnt buses and tear gas. Students in Chile are demanding a solution to their debt crisis. They cannot afford to pay up to $10,000 a year on tuition when the average income is $16,000. The school system has been privatized since Pinochet. Students complain of low quality and high costs. They say that poor students suffer because they can only afford under-funded state schools.
What is the solution? The government has proposed to raise $1 billion toward thousands of new scholarships and reducing student loan interest (from an average 6 per cent down to 2 per cent). The students, however, want to see a free school system.
Some Chilean students see their struggle as one they directly share with Quebec students. A letter to Quebec students has been circulating the internet in which “Chilean academics and student leaders, denounce to national and international public opinion the persecution of the student movement in Quebec, Canada, expressed in Act 78, which was enacted on Thursday, May 19 by the government of Prime Minister Jean Charest.” These academics and student leaders further state that “the struggle of students, academics, and workers in Quebec is also our struggle.”

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