Leaders of Chile’s 2-year-old Free College movement say the government is going in the complete wrong direction for funding students. 80 thousand students and teachers marching in Santiago, Chile demanding free, quality higher education for all.
Public education students with Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech) were joined by the Student Federation of Private Universities (Mesup) and the country's largest teachers' union (CPC) as protesters reiterated the movement's call for free, public education.
Demonstrations also took place in Valparaiso, Concepcion, and other cities. Speeches by student leaders were cut short when police used tear gas and water cannons to confront masked vandals in the crowd.
The government recently raised the minimum income requirements for financial aid, a move that protesters saw proves the need for fundamental reform to the system.
“Thousands of students are losing their grants and loans because the government changed the rules without warning, leaving people unsure if they can continue studying,” said Andres Fielbaum, president of the Student Federation of the Universidad de Chile (Fech), “We see this as proof that free education should be considered a right, because as long as education is paid through grants we will always be vulnerable to any changes to the rules.”
The education crisis is one thing that’s eroding the support of President Sebastian Pinera. A new Adimark Agency poll shows Pinera’s overall approval rating dropped four points to 34 percent, with a disapproval rating of 56 percent in the month of April.
In fact, only the rising crime rate is a higher concern for Chilean voters than Education.