Students Announce New Stage in Movement for Education Reform
SANTIAGO — This morning (June 15) Chilean students called for two days of protest and reflection, on June 20 and June 28, confirming the beginning of a new stage in the movement for education reform. Representatives of the Aces (Coordinating Assembly of High School Students), Cones (National Coordination of High School Students), and Confech (Confederation of Chilean Students), which unites students from several universities, came together to make this announcement.
The students plan to protest in the main cities in the country, including Santiago, where the protests will begin in the Plaza Italia and continue down the Alameda.
Educational profiteering stands as one of the students’ greatest concerns, reaffirmed by the recent scandal at the Universidad del Mar, where the Director Raúl Urrutia recently stepped down in protest of financial mismanagement.
“The students of Chile are tired of watching entrepreneurs behave like felons, filling up their own pockets, and profiting by destroying our dreams,” said Gabriel Boric, Confech spokesman and Student Federation of the University of Chile (Fech).
Boric also claimed that the government has persistently disregarded students’ demands. “We are tired of waiting for answers from a government that continues to ignore us,” he said this morning.
However, some government officials hold that the measures being taken to address students’ concerns are sufficient. Ena Von Baer, senator from the conservative Independent Democratic Union (UDI), said to Radio Bio Bio that the Confech’s arguments for initiating a national standstill are unfounded. “If the students are asking for an end to educational profiteering, they should realize that it is already prohibited by the law,” she stated.
She insisted that the initiatives currently being debated in Congress will address students’ needs effectively. “We need to monitor institutions more closely and the key to doing that is approving the Superintendence of Higher Education.”
The government responded to students’ demands last year via measures such as the creation of the Superintendence of Higher Education. This organism aims to regulate institutions of higher education. President Piñera and ex-Minister of Education Felipe Bulnes signed the Superintendence of Higher Education into law on November 2011.
Additionally, the government promised to monitor educational profiteering, lower loan rates, and increase student aid. However, students remain dissatisfied, sparking this second stage of protests.
Noam Titelman, President of the Federation of Students of the Universidad Católica, responded to Von Baer’s remarks. “As a representative of a private university, I can say that the Confech does not want to close private universities, far from it,” Titelman said. “The Confech is trying to rescue these institutions, which are being destroyed by the profiteering that makes them businesses instead of universities.”
The demands of university students did not take center stage in this meeting. Eloísa González, Aces representative, spoke of the current state of high school education in Chile. “We have received information of municipal high schools around the country that are in terrible conditions. In the Liceo Cervantes de Santiago, professors have not been going in to teach classes since the beginning of the year. Other high schools do not even have desks,” she said. The Aces invites the Chilean public to reflect upon the conditions of high schools in Chile on June 20, before the larger march on June 28.
This stage of protests will boast the heightened participation of high school student groups and private universities. The students will seek the permission of the Intendencia Municipal for their demonstrations this week.