- Created: Wednesday, 06 May 2009 10:40
- Written by Alvaro Michaels
Chile: student uprising
In Chile, a series of strikes and occupations by students has become the first major crisis to be faced by President Michele Bachelet’s government. Student anger at inequalities in education had been simmering for years and protesters saw the opportunity to force Bachelet to implement the ‘social justice’ she promised during the elections last December. The protests began in Santiago in late April, sparked by the announcement of an increase in the fee students pay to sit university entrance exams. Sit-ins and demonstrations
spread across the country’s schools and universities, drawing students from public and private schools into a struggle to overhaul Chile’s unjust education system. Pupils from secondary schools also joined the strikes. Demands included free bus passes, free university entrance exams, a shortening of the school day, greater student representation in the education system and a guaranteed quality education for all.
The government initially condemned the demonstrations and refused to take the students’ demands seriously. Police brutality on their demonstrations did not deter the strikers and public support for them grew in the light of the security forces’ indiscriminate violence. After a national day of action supported by teachers’ unions and involving over 700,000 students on 30 May, Bachelet was forced to announce a series of reforms and an increase in funding. Student leaders rejected the proposals and a second day of action went ahead on 5 June. The national student assembly finally called off the protests on 9 June, agreeing to take part in the president’s newly-created advisory panel on education. Round One to the students.