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Chilean students call for reform

Santiago - Students demanding education reform briefly occupied two schools in the Chilean capital on Monday, the latest move aimed at drawing attention to their cause.

Under threat of an imminent police eviction, the students peacefully left the downtown Santiago schools.

A student looks through a fence during an occupation of his school in a demonstration against the government to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago. Credit: Reuters

But student protester Diego Mellado vowed they would take back the schools “if necessary”.

Last week, authorities used teargas and water cannons to crack down on student protesters who torched three city buses.

Protesting students remain in control of eight other high schools in Santiago, seized last week in a revival of the student protests that swept the country last year.

Santiago Mayor Pablo Zalaquett has denounced the occupations, saying the students involved should not get scholarships.

“Obviously it is better that scholarships go to the students who want to study,” he said.

Public education in Chile suffered from sharp cuts in funding during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, leaving a system that favours expensive private institutions that are out of the reach of the poor.

The protesters, who are demanding free university education and central government control over public schools, have called for more protests on August 23 and 28. - Sapa-AFP

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