Argentina: students occupy to protest ‘reform’

As of Sept. 20 Argentine high school students had occupied 10 schools in Buenos Aires to protest an “educational reform” program that the capital’s rightwing mayor, Mauricio Macri, plans to institute at the beginning of the next school year in March 2014. The students held assemblies at each school to decide whether to take action. Some schools voted against the occupations: 495 of the 565 students at Julio Argentino Roca voted not to occupy, as did 340 of 420 students at Normal 6. Students from the occupied schools held a joint assembly and announced plans for a Sept. 23 press conference.

Students in Buenos Airies have used the occupation tactic several times since 2012. The movement reflects many of the same concerns about neoliberal education programs that sparked the student movement in Chile and teachers’ protests in Mexico. Protesters say Macri’s plan for a “new high-quality secondary school” (NESC) will reduce students’ options for different plans of study from 158 to just 10, with limitations on such fields as history and geography. Esteban Bullrich, the city’s education ministry, noted that the new program would only affect the students who enter high school in 2014, not the students now protesting. “We’re not just thinking about ourselves but about the future of public education,” student leaders answered, “and it actually offends us that Minister Bullrich should think that when we demand a better education, we’re doing it from egoism, from individualism.” (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 18, from correspondent; El Cívico, Buenos Aires, Sept. 21)

Public employees are also protesting the Macri government’s policies. On Sept. 17 hundreds of city workers held a march to demand a stay in the criminal cases against eight public employees arrested on April 26 when some 200 or 300 municipal police agents fought protesters attempting to stop the demolition of a building at the José T. Borda public psychiatric hospital. As many as 50 people were reportedly injured in the confrontation, the most violent incident in recent Buenos Aires history. (LJ , Sept.18, from correspondent)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, September 22.