December 5, 2013
School takeovers expand
Students protesting against a broad educational reform extended their takeovers yesterday to seven educational institutions, with no signs of a nearby end to the conflict as there are no official channels of dialogue open between students and government officials.
“Taking up schools is a consequence of a year-and-a-half delay in answering our demands. It’s an extreme decision we arrived at only after several months of distributing leaflets and holding demonstrations with no reply from the authorities”, explained Nicolás Cernadas, a student spokesman at the Nacional Buenos Aires school told the Herald.
Although students at the Nacional voted yesterday in favour of continuing the takeover, afternoon and evening students voted against, putting in evidence a split in opinion among students.
Mayor Mauricio Macri avoided answering questions from journalists yesterday about the schools.
Macri’s Cabinet Chief Horacio Rodríguez Larreta acted as the City government spokesman.
The reform is “a national measure and Buenos Aires City must abide by it,” Rodríguez Larreta said. “We have already explained this to student unions too many times.”
And he fired against those who support the takeovers: “Students don’t have classes as a result of the will of a few. We are absolutely against these methods of expression”.
Finally, he insisted dialogue with students had never broken over the past months.
“We spoke with all students who wanted information about this reform,” the City Cabinet chief said. “Actually, I find it paradoxical — they claim to be defending classes but they are blocking them with their actions.”
Cernadas vehemently denied they were blocking classes, and said the institution’s dean, Gustavo Zorzoli, was responsible for this collateral situation.
“He is against City reforms but he doesn’t support the school takeover and ordered teachers not to give lessons”, explained Juan Manuel Cuello, Nacional Buenos Aires’ Student Union president.
Meanwhile, at a national level, Education Minister Alberto Sileoni rejected there was a “crisis.” “There may be problems, but the education system is not suffering a catastrophic situation.”
Buenos Aires City is taking part of a wider reform to unify high school conditions across Argentina.
The reform stipulates a series of changes like decreasing the number of classes on offer for students that in some cases will leave subject matters, including history, for example, out of mandatory curricula in some programmes.
Although it has a tradition of leading protests led by high school students, Nacional Buenos Aires, was not among the original two establishments that unleashed the latest wave of youth actions.
The school takeovers began Monday in Normal 1 and Mariano Acosta schools and soon extended to the Bellas Artes Rogelio Yrutia in Mataderos neighbourhood and Caballito’s Lenguas Vivas the following day.