Chilean student leaders call for national strike over profiteering

Chilean students on strike in June 2011
Students across the country are planning to stage a national strike on June 28 to protest profiteering within academic institutions. The Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech) announced the strike after holding a meeting over the weekend.

The meeting, consisting of student representatives from more than 25 major Chilean universities, took place in the midst of an ongoing student takeover at the embattled Universidad del Mar. The takeover resulted from the recent discovery of financial irregularities at the university and has pushed the debate over whether schools in Chile should be allowed to profit back into the forefront of the national discussion on education.

Gabriel Boric, Confech spokesperson and president of the Student Federation of the Universidad de Chile (Fech) denounced this profiteering.

“It is public knowledge the businessmen of education steal from students, families, school employees and teachers, as seen in the case of Universidad del Mar” he said after the weekend meeting.

The strike will come a little more than a year after the beginning of the “Chilean Winter,” a series of student protests and takeovers that swept the country in 2011. Confech called for a day of remembrance for June 20, the first day of strikes last year.

In response to the threat of a national strike, Education Minister Harald Beyer said the government was already working hard to tackle the country’s most pressing educational concerns.

“The students have every right to express themselves, but I want to remind them that we are working on four points of reform,” he told La Tercera.

However, many student leaders, including Felipe Ramírez, secretary general of Fech, feel that the ministry has not taken an active enough role in combating corruption, and that the strike is necessary to send a message to both the individual institutions and the government.

“Government reform has not advanced in the past year,” Ramírez told the Santiago Times. “Our demands are against profiteering and for the democratization of the university.”

By Andrew Chow (andrewchow@santiagotimes.cl)
Copyright 2012 – The Santiago Times


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