Chile police clash with student protesters

Students pushing for more funding and reform of educational system to cope with high university fees.

    At least 25,000 university student protesters have marched through the streets of Santiago, Chile's capital, calling for reforms in education, local news reported.

    Police used water cannons to disperse demonstrators on Thursday, after some students broke through police barricades and others hurled stones at riot police. Fifteen people were arrested during the clashes, according to authorities.

    The students have been pushing the government for years to boost education funding in a country with one of the highest university fees in the world.

    Chilean university students receive only 15 per cent state funding, the lowest of all countries part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    When taking into consideration the average family income in Chile, university fees are nearly three times higher than the United States, Japan, and Australia.

    Chile's president Sebastian Pinera has promised more scholarships and said that debt for 100,000 poor students would be recalculated, amongst other reforms, but student leaders say it is not enough.

    "Today we are calling for the recovery of public education, equal access to education, quality, greater financing in the sector and, as always, regulation of the private sector and with greater involvement of the state to improve education to stop putting thousands and thousands of families into debt," Giorgio Jackson, Catholic University student president, said.

    "We want greater participation from students, workers and teachers in the decisions being made at the universities," he added.

    The student protest movement emerged five years ago in Chile under former president Michelle Bachelet. And there is little hope that Pinera will bring change to the education system.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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