Students and Teachers march for Free Education in Chile
Part of Yesterday's Demonstration
Teachers and students took part in a massive demonstration for free education in Chile yesterday
While the right wing government of Sebastian Pinera claims to have made $700 million available for education as the result of increased taxes announced this week, students and teachers say that the system still remains tied to the neo-liberal privatisation policies which were first enacted in Chile after the dictator Ponochet came to power in 1973.
The system is riddled with private agencies and the education system is fragmented and still treats education as a commodity rather than a social good. Moreover according to Education International which sent a delegation to support yesterday's demonstration, unqualified teachers are now allowed to teach, salaries are 40% lower than comparable professions and 16% of teachers suffer from depression and anxiety. Moreover a new 'evaluation' system for teachers has been introduced, which is effectively a means to dismiss teachers and replace them with unqualified people.
Yesterday's demonstration follows years of protests and strikes by teachers and students which have on occasion been violently suppressed by security forces. Students have used creative ways of getting the support of the people - who according to polls now support the demands for education for all. 80% believe education should not be for profit. Students have taken over schools and run discussions, as well as engaging in street theatre and expressions of joy and creativity.
Some reports put the numbers demonstrating in Santiago yesterday as high as 80,000. There are also reports of the demonstrators being attacked by security forces using water cannons and tear gas.