2011 Colombian student protests

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Poster against the superior education reform. It says: "No to the reform of #30 law".

The 2011 Colombian student protests was a student protest movement in Colombia. The protest begun as a reaction against a planned reform on the education system in Colombia. On November 16 the reform project was withdrawn from the parliament of Colombia, with student leaders referring to the decision as a victory for the movement.[1]

Student leader Jairo Rivera have claimed that Colombian education is drifting toward "the Chilean model" something he warned against and said that "the Chilean model is the one to not follow".[2]

2011 Colombian student protest and 2011 Chilean student protests leaders have announced a joint bi-national student protest for November 24 of 2011.[3] Chilean newspaper The Clinic have pointed out that these two student protests have in common that they broke out in the only two South American countries ruled by right-wing presidents.[2]

Causes and antecedents[edit]

Superior education reform proposed[edit]

The superior education reform project proposed by the government of Juan Manuel Santos and María Fernanda Campo, its education minister, wanted to modify the #30 law of 1992 which organizes the superior education in Colombia. The project was first presented to some colleges' rectors on march 10 of 2011 and was popularized the next months in college community. The project wasn't well received by educative union since it didn't guarantee to universities the necessary resources for its good development.

Profit Universities[edit]

Between 2001 and 2010, three million six hundred thousand high school graduated students couldn't take superior studies. In order to fix this problem, the reform proposed to create new superior education profit institutions. It was the most controversial point of the project. The university community argued that, in others countries as Brasil, which already introduced this model, the quality of the education remarkably decreased although the range has increased. Multiple protests were made against the profit universities proposal, one of them the April 7th massive protest. Because of these protests, the government abandoned the idea of profit colleges on August 23. However, the college community was against the whole reform.

College credits[edit]

The reform considered an increase on the college credits investment through the Columbian Institute of Credit (Instituto Colombiano de Crédito) and ICETEX. Credits which would be returned when students end their studies and get a job, all with the possibility of a debt forgiveness if excellent grades would be achieved. Since only private universities accept credit students, college community criticized that point because, in its opinion, it would harm the public education.

Other Points at Issue[edit]

The protests for reform in high education were also looking for:

  • To establish an autonomous economy for public universities, as university autonomy continues to be vulnerable given the composition of the Higher University Councils, through which external agents have a significant presence at the universities.[4]
  • To establish the same legislation for Universities as for Institutions of Higher Education that can offer vocational and courses in a flexible manner, regardless of denomination.
  • To make it possible for state and private institutions to declare financial insolvency.
  • To make the rationalisation and optimisation of human, physical, technical and financial resources a principal objective of state universities.
  • To apply institutional governance of a private nature to Institutions of Higher Mixed Education.
  • To permit the hiring of teachers by the hour.
  • To permit the government to allocate public resources to Institutions of Higher Mixed Education.
  • To make it possible to impose sanctions of all levels (from reprimands to suspensions and cancellations) to Institutions of Higher Education.
  • To diversity the funding sources that State Institutions of Higher Education have access to, and to consequently make them compete for public resources. In addition, they should also rely on the sale of services and increases in tuition fees for income.
  • To establish time frames for the improvement of quality and services of Institutions of Higher Education to confirm or lower their nomination.
  • To increase the meeting of quotas in Public and Private Institutions of Higher Education.
  • To limit the resources allocated to State Institutions of Higher Education on a temporary basis, taking into account increases in GDP and student results.

The April 7th protest[edit]

Students marching on April 7, 2011 against the proposed education reform

On the 7th of April the first large protest of the unions, teachers and students was carried out in response to the policies of the government of Juan Manuel Santos. The protesters demanded better salaries and conditions for teachers, pensioners and employees. They also asked for greater rights for labour unions and rejected the government's reforms to higher education. These reforms were part of the National Development Plan 2010-2014 which included privatisation of the Bogota Telecommunications Bureau (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Bogotá-ETB), the law of First Employment, fiscal sustainability, the 100 Law of 1993 and free trade agreements.[5]

The marches developed across the country and more than one hundred organisations participated including:

  • All public universities
  • Some private universities
  • World Organisation of Students (Organización Mundial de Estudiantes-OME)
  • Colombian Organisation of Students (Organización Colombiana de Estudiantes-OCE)
  • Federation of University Students (Federación de Estudiantes Universitarios-FEU)
  • Colombian Association of University Students (Asociación Colombiana de Estudiantes Universitarios-ACEU)
  • National Student Identity Process (Proceso Nacional Identidad Estudiantil)
  • Revolt Network (Red Revuelta)
  • National Federation of Universities (Federación Universitaria Nacional-FUN)
  • The Student Union (Sies Colombia)
  • The Independent Network (La Red Independientes)
  • The Critical Thought Collective (el Colectivo Pensamiento Crítico)
  • Central Union of Workers (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores-CUT)
  • Colombian Federation of Educators (Federación Colombiana de Educadores-FECODE)
  • Trade Union of ETB Workers (SINTRATELÉFONOS)
  • The workers of the Bogota Bureau of Aqueducts and Sewage (Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá-EAAB)
  • Numerous student collectives

References[edit]