Chilean students clash with police in 1st protest of new school year

Santiago, Mar 9 (EFE).- Clashes broke out between high-school students and police on Thursday in the Chilean capital’s downtown during a march to demand more educational improvements.

Several hundred students shouted slogans such as “Down With For-Profit Education” and “Back in School and Back to the Student Struggle” during the first “mochilazo” of the 2023 academic year, a demonstration that began at 1.30 pm on Alameda Ave., Santiago’s main thoroughfare.

“The high-school students’ demands are still pending, and we’re calling for a reinvigorated student movement in this new school year. We’re a poor, precarious municipal high-school, and despite small infrastructure improvements we’re still being adversely hurt by market-based education,” Almendra Arenas, a 17-year-old student at Santiago’s Liceo 4, told Efe.

A few meters ahead, 15-year-old Manuel Ibarra lamented in remarks to Efe that “not all students in Chile are able to study with dignity.”

“We have infrastructure that’s falling to pieces, and if this happens in Santiago, just imagine in the regions (outside the capital). We have to mobilize this year with the same persistence as always,” he added.

Turnout was lower than expected for the march, in which some groups of students clashed with officers and the police responded by firing water cannon.

Absenteeism, run-down infrastructure, violence in the classrooms and learning gaps stemming from the pandemic-triggered lockdowns are some of the main challenges in Chile’s new school year, which kicked off on March 1.

Late last year, Chile’s government announced a 250-billion-peso ($315 million) education plan aimed at addressing the public schools’ most urgent needs.

Frequent marches, some of which turned violent, were held in downtown Santiago during the 2022 school year to press demands for high-quality public education.

During some of those demonstrations, unknown assailants hurled Molotov cocktails and set buses on fire in the city center. EFE


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