San Jose, Jun 20 (EFE).- Thousands of students and workers took to the streets of Costa Rica’s capital on Tuesday to demand the government meet its constitutionally mandated budgetary obligations to the education sector.
The demonstrators, who called for a dialogue aimed at forging a “national pact for education,” walked along San Jose’s main streets and gathered at the Plaza of Democracy and the Abolition of the Military, a square located in front of the national legislature.
Holding signs demanding the government comply with a constitutionally mandated requirement to earmark 8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product to the education sector, students, teachers and union members marched peacefully and called for the resignation of Education Minister Anna Katharina Muller and Finance Minister Nogui Acosta.
The demonstrators were angered by government announcements indicating plans to cut education spending and not raise the amount of budgeted funds allocated for public universities by an inflation-adjusted 1 percent.
“Education is at risk because 8 percent of (GDP for education) should be included as part of the budget. Since 2019, we’ve seen substantial budget declines, and if that policy continues we’ll be seeing a diminishing of the normal functioning of the universities in the short term,” the president of the National Council of Rectors and president of the National Technical University, Emmanuel Gonzalez, told Efe.
Gonzalez, who participated in Tuesday’s demonstration, said a national cost-control policy is in place that “doesn’t even allow us to invest our own resources,” adding that universities will face “short-term death” if the situation continues.
The country needs to come to grips with the seriousness of the problem because it is now “one step away from losing everything that’s been gained in education,” he said.
The president of the University of Costa Rica, Gustavo Gutierrez, lamented for his part that “unfortunately the government isn’t committed to that constitutionally (mandated) 8 percent,” noting that “on different occasions it’s said there’s no way to satisfy” that requirement.
“We’re demanding compliance with that 8 percent” mandate, said Gutierrez, who added that the country “is lagging behind significantly in education” and must resolve the situation.
Opposition parties in Congress expressed their support for the marchers and their demands, while center-right President Rodrigo Chaves’ administration has yet to comment on the demonstration. EFE