Chile: Protests By Students Against Educational Issues, Rising Costs And Subpar Educational Quality

As Chilean students begin their winter break, they say goodbye to a semester that was marred by unrest. Violence broke out between hooded students and police at many high schools in the Santiago area.

The prominent Internado Nacional Barros Arana (INBA) high school in Santiago, Chile, was briefly closed in June due to “severe” violence, including the burning of the principal’s office.

In a society that has developed rapidly but unevenly over the last several decades, student demonstrations about the high cost and poor quality of secondary and university education are becoming increasingly regular.

Experts claim that pandemic-related behavioral disorders are aggravated in children. Children worldwide seem to have had some long-term impacts, but Chile appears to have been especially heavily struck.

Francisca Morales, UNICEF’s Chile education officer, remarked, “We haven’t seen anything else as drastic or dramatic as here.”

Those returning to school after having gone through puberty in solitude had the greatest influence, she added.

Violent events have increased by 56 percent in the previous semester, according to Chile’s Education Superintendent, which has concerned legislators, psychologists, and teachers alike.

“After these two years, they chafe more with authority and discipline. There’s a rejection of authority figures,” said Esteban Abarca, a high school teacher at the INBA school in Santiago.

“It’s not comfortable for anyone to be in class when they’re burning things or attacking the principal.”

When Augusto Pinochet was in power in the 1970s and 1980s, Chilean students took to the streets in protest. Protests demanding school changes by students, including current President Gabriel Boric, took place in 2006 and 2011, and in 2019 more widespread rallies witnessed months of unrest, with metro stations and churches set on fire.

Even if she disagreed with the burning of buses or the skirmishes with police, Florencia Acevedo (16), a Santiago high school student, said demonstrations were the only way to be heard.

“I understand those who do it because you act with rage sometimes, shame and pain,” she said, citing issues like schools missing basic infrastructure, including doors and decent bathrooms.

“Adults don’t take students seriously so we take over schools, because if we try to talk they don’t listen,” Acevedo said. “We regretfully live in a society that reacts to violence. If I give you violence, you give me what I want.”

According to the Education Minister Antonio Avila, the problem is related to a greater societal discomfort.

Even as Boric’s popularity is hurt by indigenous violence, a new constitution that was supposed to address deep-seated inequality concerns is in danger of not receiving enough support from the public. “The problems that occur in school communities are a reflection of the problems we have as a society,” Avila said.

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