SANTIAGO – Some 200,000 students and teachers were on the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities on Wednesday to protest the government’s proposed education reform, organizers said.
The marches in Santiago, the nearby coastal city of Valparaiso and Concepcion, the metropolis of southern Chile, were an initiative of the Confech confederation of university students, with support from groups representing high school students.
The students were joined by teachers, who have been on strike for more than a week to press demands for shorter hours, higher pay and changes to a bill currently before Congress that would require new teachers to pass exams in different knowledge areas.
At the conclusion of the demonstration in the capital, Confech spokesperson Valentina Saavedra said lawmakers and the government need to look at the students’ own draft proposal for educational reform.
Chilean students began taking to the streets in massive numbers four years ago to demand the overhaul of a school system still suffering from the legacy of the 1973-1990 dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Under Pinochet, public education was neglected and for-profit schools mushroomed, a trend that continued after democracy was restored, even during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.
The center-left returned to power last year with the election of Michelle Bachelet for a second term as president.
But student organizations have rejected her proposed reforms as too timid.