Rising student fees, regressive education reforms, a €4 billion cut to state education and the firing of thousands of teachers are set to be contested by students and their families as they step up protests in the coming week.
Until now, it has been the teachers who have been leading the defence of state education, which has long suffered from underfunding but is now under unprecedented attack from a Government accused of seeking to turn the clock back to the dark days of the Franco Dictatorship.
But now students and their parents are making a stand against the administration of Mariano Rajoy. They are planning over the coming week protests across Spain against what Jesus Maria Sanchez, president of a national parents association, CEAPA, described in a press conference Wednesday as ‘deeply ideological’ reforms to the education system that will engrain privilege and deprive the next generation of working class kids of decent chances in life.
‘Young people are tired of being told there is no money for education and health, then the governing Popular Party allocate 33% of the budget for the payment of the debt,’ added student union general secretary Tohil Delgado. It was critical to maintain the protests against a government that ‘in nine months has sent us back decades of social progress,’ he said.
The reforms include a protection of state funding to private schools while money to publicly-run schools is slashed, channelling the money of hard up Spaniards’ into the pockets shady ultra conservative institutions like the Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ, who run the private institutions.
Under reforms unveiled in the Spring, university tuition fees rise from to 25% of total study costs, up from 15% at present, teachers’ working hours increase as will classroom sizes, by 20%.
Other changes giving rise to deep concern are an increase in formal testing and an effective narrowing of the curriculum as subjects such as arts and humanities are downgraded in favour of the ‘basics’ demanded by big business.
But concerns are much wider than education per se. Students are becoming increasingly indebted as not only fees go up and access to grants is curtailed, but the ability to top up incomes has evaporated along with future job prospects in a country with youth unemployment is over 50%. 1,500 young people weekly are emigrating to survive, many of them are faced with being left with no roof over their heads, with figures showing that hundreds of families are losing their homes daily – despite the fact that 6 million homes lay empty.
Thursday students will take nationwide action*, ahead of a general strike on 16-18 October.