June 24, 2021

Chilean students return to classes and their key role in the protests



More than 620,000 students resumed classes in Chile on Wednesday after the summer period, in a month of March in which it is expected that they will star in multiple protests against the Government in the framework of the social crisis that the country has been experiencing for twenty weeks.

The 1,516 schools that opened today in the Metropolitan Region, the most populous in the country and in which Santiago de Chile is located, were waiting for what could happen inside and outside the classrooms, after in October several centers had that to end the classes in advance due to the demonstrations that dominated the country.

Dozens of students, some from the emblematic National Institute, cut traffic today in the Alameda, the main avenue of Santiago, and sat on the platform of several subway stations in the capital, which had to close preventively, recalling the episodes that lived the santiaguinos the first month of protests.

Precisely the National Institute, a historically combative center, was one of the centers that four months ago anticipated its end of course, a situation that was repeated in 8% of schools, as reported by the Ministry of Education at the end of November.

THE STUDENTS, PRECURSORS OF THE SOCIAL BREAK

The morning of October 18, 2019, the students called “mass evasions” (enter without paying) in the Santiago metro to protest against the rate increase.

That fact ended up being the spark that ignited the mobilizations in Chile, causing an unprecedented revolt by a more just economic model and which has left episodes of extreme violence and at least thirty deaths.

The sociologist of the University of Chile Sofia Donoso explained to Efe that young people have fulfilled “a key role” in “re-politicizing” and “re-mobilizing” civil society during the last twenty years, with important demonstrations in 2001, 2006 and 2011.

Donoso said that “they did not carry the trauma and fear” of those who grew up under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), who were more “moderate” in the pressure they exerted on the Government.

“At the current juncture, within the framework of the most important political, social and institutional episode since 1990, students are clearly not going to subtract,” said the researcher at the Center for Conflict and Social Cohesion Studies (COES).

RETURN TO THE “NEW NORMALITY”

Last Monday – known as “super Monday” for starting school, work and legislative activity after the lethargy holiday – the demonstrations kicked off a month of March that is expected to be intense.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the reactivation of the protests left 283 detainees and 28 “very serious” events, with barricades, attacks on police barracks and clashes between protesters and security forces throughout the country.

Members of the educational community fear that episodes like the one lived on November 5 at Liceo 7 could be repeated, where two high school students were injured by riot gunshots inside a public institute.

“The officials are afraid because the establishments are gassed, which affects their health and also the psychological part,” said Efe Fabiola Romero, secretary of the AFESA guild, which brings together education officials in Santiago.

Romero participated this Wednesday in a convocation of the Educational Committee of the 8M Feminist Coordinator before the Ministry of Education, in which the chant minister was dedicated as “a feminist and dissident education is urgently needed!”.

A PRECAMPAÑA IN THE STREETS?

In the absence of a month and a half for the historic plebiscite of April 26, in which Chileans are called to decide if they want a new Constitution that replaces the current one, approved in 1980 under the dictatorship, the protests will serve to take the pulse to the most mobilized groups in favor of a new Magna Carta.

However, sociologist Sofía Donoso recalled that historically young Chileans have participated more in marches and other “unconventional” actions than to exercise their right to vote.

“My impression is that this time the scale of the challenge may be understood and younger people join, but many do not believe in the institutions and as a consequence they believe that it is not worth going to vote,” he said.

Along these lines, the spokeswoman for the Coordinating Assembly of Secondary Students (Aces) of Chile, Isidora Godoy, criticized the political agreement by the plebiscite for having “only the interests of the powerful.”

Aces starred in a strong boycott against the entrance test to the University of Chile, which they believe segregates students based on the purchasing power of families.

For this March, they call on Chilean teenagers to be part of what they call “student backpacks”: protests, leaks from institutes or taking of educational centers.

“Let us go out to the streets, do not abandon it, let us not be guided by the treaties that the Government has taken. We distrust the institutionality because none of our demands have been solved,” Godoy concluded.

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