Colombian teachers, students protest education reforms

Thousands of teachers and students took to the streets of several of Colombia’s major cities Sept. 7 “in defense of public education.” The demonstrations aimed to reject a proposal by the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to reform higher education. In the capital Bogotá, some 7,000 protesters took to the streets, while in Medellín some 1,000 teachers and students were protesting. The government of President Santos proposed reforms to Law 30, stating that the reforms will increase financial resources for universities to open spaces for additional students, improve the salaries of professors, and be more competitive in research.

National University professor and member of Association of the Union of University Professors, Juan Sánchez, told Colombia Reports he disagrees and commented that passing the reforms would greatly hurt the quality of higher education. “There are many consequences. For one, the drop-out rate will increase. Job security for professors will be more precarious. Private companies will have little incentive to promote research in universities. And lastly, students will have to pay for many services and the cost of education will be prohibitively high,” said the scholar.

Following previous resistance, the government announced the retraction of the for-profit component of the reforms last month, but students remain outraged at the “attack” on public education. Representatives from six national student organizations will convene next month to vote on a date for a national strike if the government insists on pushing through the education reforms. “This is just warming up for the national strike,” said Sergio Fernández, organizer from the Colombian Organization of Students. The next protest is scheduled to take place Colombus Day on October 12, to coincide with the demonstrations of indigenous groups. (Colombia Reports, Dept. 7)

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