Over the past year, Chilean students have been protesting for education reform. Hundreds of students—mostly in their teens— have taken over schools in Santiago. High school entrances and traffic have been blocked in Chile’s capital.
Despite promises from President Sebastian Pinera, protestors complain that not much change has happened. 45% of families who can’t afford private schools have to settle with poor quality public schools. Others attend private schools for both secondary school and university. However, these private institutions are becoming too expensive so families have to get loans with interest rates too high to pay off.
“It is a direct assault on public education and on the chance to advance towards ending inequality in Chile,” said Student Leader Camila Vallejo.
For the several past months, student protests have been getting louder and more violent. The protesters are demanding free, high-quality education for all without central government control inside of public schools. Students have taken over several schools and damaged city property. Recently, three city buses were set on fire, injuring many people.
“If we’re coming to this extreme-this level of anger among students-it’s because this government has been unable to have a dialogue and give us any answers,” said Gabriel Boric, President of the University of Chile Student Federation.
In response the police took violent actions against the students as well. They have used water cannons to disassemble marches. They stormed into three secondary schools and detained over a hundred students. Santiago’s Mayor, Pablo Zalaquett, threatened to take away scholarships from students who take part in the protest.
Government spokesman Andres Chadwick supported the violent actions of the police. He stated, “”We reject the violence of a small group of students who occupy those schools, often wearing balaclavas. Their sole purpose is to disrupt… classes and normal life.”
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