A strike across the whole education sector

Students kick off mass protests in Spain

GMT 22:12 2012 Thursday ,10 May

Arab Today, arab today Students kick off mass protests in Spain

A student holds a sign reading "Your gun against my books" during a students' demonstration
Madrid - AFP

A student holds a sign reading "Your gun against my books" during a students' demonstration Spanish students took to the streets Thursday in anger at crisis cuts in education, the first in several days of broader social protests across the country. The national Students' Union called demonstrations in more than 50 towns, its leader Tohil Delgado told AFP, predicting that thousands of students, pupils and teachers would join in despite looming exams.
Several hundred university students marched through the central streets of Madrid on Thursday evening under a blazing sun behind a large red and white banner that read: "Everyone together against the cutbacks".
Earlier, a few hundred high school students pupils demonstrated outside the education ministry over the reforms that the protesters say are ruining their studies.
"We have called this demonstration as an initial response to this attack on public education, which is without precedent in the past 35 years," Delgado said.
As Spain fights to stabilise its public finances, schools and universities have for months been complaining of shrinking budgets for research and extra work for teachers.
Since the last student marches on February 29, the government has announced a further three billion euros in cost-cutting reforms, expanding class sizes and raising university fees to an average 1,500 euros from 1,000 euros.
"We don't want to owe thousands of euros to banks when we finish our studies, especially since we are not sure of finding a job after," said 21-year-old engineering student Victor Andreu.
Another demonstrator, 16-year-old Paz Elena Fernandez, said the public scholarships that many pupils in her working-class suburb rely on are being cut.
"Lots of people are abandoning their studies to find work, or are working while studying. But there's not much work going. Lots are neither studying nor working," she said at the protest at the education ministry.
"There are about 40 people in each class and the teachers are tired," she added.
The latest demonstrations are part of a wave of anger at the austerity measures launched since the conservative Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took over the government in December.
The government, which won an absolute parliamentary majority in last November's general election, has shown no sign of backing down from its reforms.
Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert argues the reforms are needed to improve the quality of education and reduce Spain's bloated public deficit.
"These are decisions that we are imposing because of the demands for fiscal consolidation which the country has agreed too and which it must fulfill," he told reporters in Brussels.
Spain has agreed to reduce its public deficit to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product this year from 8.5 percent last year.
In a broader protest, the "indignant" movement on May 15 marks one year since it sprang up and occupied central Madrid for weeks with a tent city on the Puerta del Sol square.
The movement has promised four days of protests from May 12 to 15.
The "indignants" appear divided over their internal organisation, however, as traditional labour unions take centre stage, mobilising huge protests.
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated during a general strike on March 29, and a strike across the whole education sector is planned for May 22.
"We will not pay for your crisis!" yelled the first demonstrators in Madrid on Wednesday. "If there is no solution, there'll be a revolution!"

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