June 05, 2006

Protest lessons for Chile students

by Jane Chambers

Diego (right) and his classmates say their protest is peaceful
Sixteen-year-old Diego Gustavo is at his school, the Liceo Lastarria in the Chilean capital Santiago, every day - but not for lessons.

For the past two weeks, he and high-school pupils across Chile have been staging sit-ins in school buildings to press for a range of educational reforms from the government.

"It's very tiring being here day after day," says Diego. "As a student leader I am always having to think about the others, to go to student meetings, to represent my peers."

The penguins, as school students are known because of their black and white uniforms, are determined to get the government to change the education system and have called a nationwide strike on Monday.

They are pressing for a complete overhaul of the system, but also have specific demands like free bus passes for all and an end to university entrance exam fees.

Three buses

President Michelle Bachelet, in office since March, has said the government cannot afford free bus passes every day for all students as the costs would run to $500,000 daily.

Students asleep on the floor at the Liceo de Aplicacion
The protest has been hard work for the students

But she has said the government will give free passes to the poorest students and also waive the university entrance fee for the most deserving.

The government is also planning to invest an extra $133m a year in education.

But some secondary school students think the reforms promised by Ms Bachelet do not go far enough.

"We, the students, wanted to be part of the process. We are very angry that she hasn't listened to us," says Diego.


Post a Comment

<< Home