Chile: Students protest for-profit schools


Students clash with riot police during a protest to demand that President Sebastian Pinera's government overhaul the education system to guarantee free, quality public education for all Chileans, in front of La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago on June 28, 2012.



Thousands of Chilean students took to the streets of Santiago Thursday to protest the existence of for-profit schools and to demand other educational reforms.

The protesters, who carried banners and flags, marched three miles through yesterday's heavy rain in the capital city, reported the Associated Press. Most of the protest took place peacefully, but at one point a few masked students threw stones at police and a Molotov cocktail at a car, setting it on fire. Police responded by putting out the burning vehicle and using tear gas and water cannons on the crowd.

The march came after last week's announcement of a congressional report that accused seven private universities of violating a legal requirement that educational institutions operate on a non-profit basis, according to EFE.

"We have to say once again that education is not a consumer product, education is a right," student leader Noam Titelman told reporters. "And to make it so, we need a state that ensures adequate regulation of the private sector and which also permits the strengthening of the public sector."

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The Chilean student movement has been relatively quiet this year, as opposed to last year, when it emerged, reported the Santiago Times. Thursday's protest is thought to be an indication that the movement's dormancy was only temporary.

"The government is right to be worried because we are dealing with a minister who bows to business," said Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech) spokesperson Gabriel Boric during the march's closing ceremony, according to the Times. "We want to say that while this happens, we will not be quiet. We went from a military dictatorship to a market dictatorship."

According to the AP, Chile has poor-quality public schools and expensive private universities that benefit from state funding, and many students face huge educational loan debts.