By Mickey Conn
Over the last month, Chile has entered the stage of the social struggles sweeping Latin America, with hundreds of thousands of secondary students striking and occupying their schools. All Chile's main cities have seen big demonstration clash with the police, and university and other education workers have struck in support of the students.
These include not only immediate reforms to improve students' quality of life, but a change in the whole way the education system functions. Under the Pinochet regime, a large part of the school system was privatised and schools put under municipal control were starved of funds. Private schools in Chile now spend five times more per pupil than state ones. The school student’ movement has raised demands like “Decent education — not the market!” Like the French students, they are fighting against the impact of neoliberal policies — policies continued by the ‘socialist’ government of president Michele Bachelet.
The government has now conceded most of the movement's immediate demands, including free final exams, free bus travel for the poorest 60% of students and millions more in funding for state schools. The protests are off for now. But the broader issues which drove the students onto the streets remain — and we can hope that the door has been opened to further action by Chile’s young people and working class.