Date: Thu, 29 Aug 1996 11:51:09 -0500
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>>> Item number 8397, dated 96/08/27 17:33:57—ALL
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 1996 17:33:57 CDT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY <>
Subject: Weekly News Update #343, 8/25/96

High school students protest education ‘reform’

Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, Weekly News Update on the Americas, #343, 25 August 1996

High school students in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, have been holding demonstrations and occupying school buildings since Aug. 14 to protest an education reform program established by the government. The government moved on Aug. 20 to cancel classes in Montevideo's primary and secondary public schools after the unions representing teachers and other school staff announced a 24-hour strike for that day to support the student mobilization. The protests also gained some support in public schools outside the capital area, and in universities and private schools. One 14-year old student, Marina Alves, was run over by a car and killed on Aug. 17 while participating with other student protesters in a street blockade charging tolls to drivers in Montevideo. As Alves was buried on Aug. 20, health workers and taxi drivers held commemorative strikes of six hours and three hours respectively. [El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 8/21/96 from AP; Diario Las Americas (Miami) 8/21/96 from EFE]

The occupation of Montevideo schools began on Aug. 14 after a demonstration commemorating the death 28 years ago of a Communist student killed in clashes with the police. The president of the Central Directive Council (CODICEN), the governmental agency in charge of the country's primary and secondary schools, said the conflict is eminently political, and that it is linked to the plans for a demonstration on Aug. 24 to commemorate the day two years ago when a protester was killed during clashes with police over the extradition to Spain of three Basque nationals linked to the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) [see Update #239]. [ED-LP 8/21/96 from AP]

The students' principal demands are the immediate suspension of what they call an authoritarian education reform that answers to a minority of the privileged population and to the international lending institutions; the establishment of educational policies that treat teachers and students with dignity; participation in decision-making through student assemblies; and the rejection of CODICEN's offer of informative talks to explain the education reform.

On Aug. 23, students held a spirited protest march to the legislature building. Chanting My shoes are worn out from so much walking, I want a fair budget to be able to study, the students—many with colorfully painted faces—stopped by the University of the Republic to the cheers and applause of university students. Filling up nearly five avenue blocks, the students continued on their march and finally surrounded the legislature building. Heavy security prevented them from entering the building, which was nearly empty at the time. Communist Party senator Marina Arismendi, president of the Senate's Commission on Education and Culture, came out and asked the students to present their list of demands to be read later. The students refused, saying: We don't want this to have political overtones, this is not the moment to introduce solutions. Right now we are in a mobilization and that's it. Throughout the march, one student pushed a wheelbarrow carrying a box painted to represent Education Reform: BID For Export [For Export was written in English; BID is the Spanish acronym for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), an international financial institution]. After Arismendi was brushed off, the education reform box was burned symbolically in front of the legislature. Then the students read their demands and announced an assembly for the next day, Aug. 24.

In an open letter to parents on the third day of a strike in support of the student demands, the Association of Secondary School Teachers (ADES) rejected the education reform because it was planned and designed by international credit institutions like the IDB and the World Bank and because it proposes as its objective a model of a student and person who is non-critical and who passively adapts to a supposed labor market which does not yet exist in this society, among other reasons.

Teaching students meeting in an assembly also unanimously voted to oppose the education reform, pointing out the contradictions in a system that is supposed to improve the quality of education while it establishes a model class size of 40 students; the closing of adult and rural schools; a drop in the level of teacher training; and low salaries. The teaching students joined the call for a national debate on the education reform and declared themselves in a state of active strike and permanent assembly in support of the high school mobilizations.

On the night of Aug. 22, CODICEN announced that schools would reopen the following Monday, Aug. 26. The ruling Colorado Party has warned it could start evicting the students from the occupied schools on Aug. 26 if a solution has not been reached. The PIT- CNT, Uruguay's labor federation, resolved to strike if students are evicted. [El Pais (Montevideo) 8/23/96, 8/24/96] On Aug. 20 the leftist Frente Amplio coalition expressed its solidarity with the student occupations. [ED-LP 8/21/96 from AP]