Chilean Students and Teachers continue Fight for Free Education
Chilean Student arrested by Security Forces
Chilean students and teachers are continuing their fight for universal free education in the country
The government had been talking to students but they broke off the talks when they realised that the right wing administration of Sebastian Pinera had no intention of meeting their demands. Teachers have been campaigning and striking for almost five months now and many schools are occupied by their students.
While only 40% of Chile's inhabitants qualify for free education, the students and teachers are campaigning for free education for all and an end to the neo-liberal policies which Chile - under the dictator Augusto Pinochet - were the first to introduce in the 1970s. Even though a form of democracy has been reintroduced in the country for the last 20 years, the old neo-liberal model of education remains - with ever increasing privatisation, vouchers, cuts and decentralisation of schools and universities. Many schools are run for profit and are seen as highly desirable investments.
The students and teachers have won the support of the wider trade union movement, with another general strike due on the 18/19th October. The International Trades Union Congress (ITUC) is also supporting the campaign as is the wider population of Chile. The Chilean teachers' union organised a survey of opinion - answered by over a million Chileans - the vast majority of whom supported the call for free education for all and keeping profit out of education.Chile's economy is booming with the increase of copper prices fueling its growth - yet it is only the rich who are benefiting.
Students and demonstrators have suffered attacks by security forces and hundreds of arrests during the course of their latest five month campaign - but neither these - nor the preisdent's limited concessions - while still refusing to grant free education for all - have been able to stop the movement.