Massive Protests Against Colombia Higher Education Reform (updated) | Educación en Colombia: los estudiantes promueven la toma de Bogotá

Editorial Note. On Thursday November 10th, Colombia’s cities are expected to come to a standstill due to nationwide protests against a proposed higher-education reform of “Law 30.” This reform encourages private businesses to invest in public universities. Students and teachers think this is the start of a conversion of public universities into private schools; they are joined in their protests by the Colombian Association of Truckers, the National Union of Taxi Drivers, the Confederation of Workers, and the Confederation of Labor. DC

Why Students Oppose Colombia’s University Reform

By Adriaan Alsema
Colombia Reports

English | Spanish

The massive student protests against Colombia’s planned university reform are met by most outside the university world, myself included, with ignorance. To understand the students’ objections to the reform I tried to translate a pamphlet I found on the Internet, and figured I’d share it.

If you are looking for arguments in favor of the controversial “Law 30”, I recommend this post on Colombian blog Banana Skin Flip Flops.

  • Why is the national, public and private academic community questioning and opposing Law 30?
  • Is it as good as they make it look?
  • Is it so that there is more budget for higher education?
  • Will there be an increased inclusion?
  • Will there be an ongoing improvement of the educative quality?
  • Will the autonomy of the institutions be respected?
  • Will the right to education be respected?

The national academic community says “no!” because: the royalties continue to be a profit-based form of financing and, with profit, you do not guarantee quality, just the enrichment of a few who are granted the contracts, as has happened with Law 100 and health, Bogota’s mass transit system Transmilenio, Bogota’s water supply system, and energy company ETB, among others.

Would you, father of a family, citizen, man or woman, who has been a victim of housing credit (which is necessary to survive), get yourself with your child indebted to pay for his study, knowing that you will continue to pay for 15 years?

In short: Study 5 years and get yourself indebted for 15?

This will be the situation we will be forced into if we support the minister’s proposed reform.

The technical and technological careers will have priority in student loans. Moreover, the institutes would be the ones to benefit from the education of our children — according to this law — which implies that becoming a professional will continue to be a privilege for a minority, while the majority of the population would be preparing themselves for cheap labor, machine work, dedicated to only jobs without the right to think.

We want to think, we want to transform, we want to question, investigate, because it is knowledge that is the road to real human and social development.

A high grade in high school exams does not guarantee social recognition or financial support that one assumes from a “scholarship credit.” Yet another debt?  What happened to state responsibility? What happened to the taxes we all pay?

In a society like ours where education is considered to be a fundamental right, it is the duty of the state to provide quality education, access to this to all for free and framed within the rule of law.

Because of the above, it is not possible to allow these types of reforms and because of this, we oppose the fact that our right to education, as the academic community becomes vulnerable, is not being respected, and we are being misled.

Education is not a commodity.

Our voice is being heard and we invite you, your family and the community to mobilize and unite with the protest against this reform law.

Minister, we do know how to read and interpret what the reform bill says. Because of this you cannot fool us.

For those who can read Spanish, the 1992 Law 30 may be downloaded from here.


Source: Colombia Reports


Student Protesters Demand Quality – and Equality

By Helda Martínez

BOGOTÁ, Nov 11, 2011 (IPS) – The “occupation” of Bogotá by students, backed by parents and professors as well as social and cultural sectors, is continuing even after the Colombian government offered to withdraw its controversial bill to reform education if the protests were called off.

Protesting in the rain in Bolívar Square (Credit:Helda Martínez/IPS)

The protesters turned down rightwing President Juan Manuel Santos’ request that they go back to classes. Some 200,000 university students demonstrated Thursday in Bogotá and other parts of the country for high-quality education with equality.

“We want something better than the proposals of neoliberal governments and the conditions imposed on the country by the free trade agreement with the United States,”

approved by the U.S. Congress in October, Adriana Santos, a law student, told IPS.

A heavy downpour in Bogotá on Thursday Oct. 10 did not dampen the singing, dancing, speeches and embraces between students and their relatives, artists and professors, who marched from strategic points of the city towards Bolívar Square in the heart of the capital, the site of Congress, city hall, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace.

The protest movement is opposed to the bill reforming Law 30 of 1992 on higher education, which it claims it is an attempt to privatise the system by encouraging private investment and the creation of for-profit universities, while curtailing autonomy by granting the education ministry more control over public educational establishments.

The month-old education strike and the protests will continue regardless of this weekend’s meeting of the Broad National Student Council (MANE) to respond to the government proposal.

Meanwhile, the strikers have invited Education Minister María Fernanda Campo to take part in a televised prime time debate on Nov. 15.

“We want the country to know about our commitment to the construction of an alternative, democratic, free education system in the service of the vast majority”

of the population, MANE spokespeople said.

“We want the youth of Colombia and the children of the poorest workers to have access to superior quality education. If we want progress, we need good education,” they added.

“The withdrawal of the bill, rather than a democratic gesture, is a sign of the strength and effectiveness of the student movement,”

Víctor Manuel Moncayo, professor emeritus and former dean of the state National University of Colombia, told IPS.

“We have not seen anything like this since the 1970s, when there was a very effective student protest movement that achieved autonomy and deposed more than one university chancellor,” he said.

The student and teacher protest got under way as soon as the first drafts of the proposed reform were made known, in August 2010, when President Santos had just taken office.

The government bill, in many people’s view, represents continuity with the policy of the rightwing government of former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), known as the “educational revolution”, which is essentially about privatisation, according to its critics.

The students asked to be actively included in drafting the education bill currently being debated, and have carried out demonstrations in Bogotá and other large Colombian cities since April.

“But there was no discussion or consultation over the draft. The ministry organised 28 forums but these were merely a mechanism to legitimise the government’s project,”

said a student communiqué sent to Congress.

At first the protests were marred by scuffles and police crackdowns, but the students changed their tactics, and held a “hugathon” on Oct. 26 and a “kissathon” on Nov. 3.

“The MANE decided to change tactics by consensus, which is the way all our resolutions are decided and which has led to exciting days,”

Viviana Rangel, the representative on the student council from the private Universidad Externado de Colombia, told IPS. The Externado is one of 26 private universities that have joined the protest

“in solidarity with public universities, but also because the government reform affects our own sector,”

said Rangel, who studies government and international relations.

In Rangel’s view,

“the bill is directly linked with the free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.

“Chapter 11 of the FTA calls for private investment in education. In other words, the profit motive prevails, which means that university fees can rise faster than the consumer price index, which used to regulate any increases,” she said.

“U.S. universities will also be allowed into the country, and they will train people to provide cheap labour for their economy, as well as dismantle other guarantees currently offered by private universities,” she said.

“Santos cannot give way easily, because he is deeply committed to the U.S. agenda,”

Yamile Rojas, a law school graduate from the private Universidad Libre, told IPS.

Rangel said that within the context of neoliberal policies, the education reform stresses

“student loans, which are a real nightmare for students and their parents. After five years of studying, the payments must continue for another 15 years,” she said.

Meanwhile, minister Campo is insisting that students must go back to classes, saying that if they fail the whole semester, the entry of new students will be limited next year.

The students’ reply is that it is better to fail a semester than to lose out on a lifetime of opportunities for themselves and future generations.

Parallels with Chile

Colombian and Chilean students agree on the need for high-quality education, a bigger budget and wider coverage.

In both countries, the streets are the scenario of their demands for reform; in Chile, to change the prohibitively expensive system set in motion by the 1973-1990 dictatorship, and in Colombia to provide a tuition-free alternative to the government’s privatisation proposal.

“The Chilean dictatorship leaned towards privatised education, which is now experiencing a crisis for economic reasons, and problems of unequal access to education are also becoming apparent,”

Professor Víctor Manuel Moncayo of the National University of Colombia told IPS.

“Privatisation is not just about shifting state assets to the private sector, as in Chile, but also about imposing private sector logic on public institutions, like in Colombia,” he said.

“Colombia has imitated Chilean models in different areas, and is now attempting to do so in education – and going even further, by allowing the profit motive to rule state universities. Both public and private universities will have to compete for resources in the market, undermining their educational mission,” he warned.

Source: IPS


Por Helda Martínez

inglés | español

Bogotá – La llamada toma de Bogotá, promovida por estudiantes y apoyada por sus padres, profesores y sectores sociales y culturales, siguió su curso aun después de que el gobierno de Colombia ofreció retirar su cuestionado proyecto de ley para reformar la enseñanza a cambio de que se cancelara la protesta.

Los estudiantes le dijeron no a la propuesta del presidente Juan Manuel Santos de que retornaran a clases. Unos 200.000 universitarios de Bogotá y otras regiones se manifestaron por una educación equitativa y de calidad.

“Que supere los mandatos neoliberales y la afectación del país por el tratado de libre comercio con Estados Unidos”,

que el Congreso legislativo de ese país aprobó en octubre, dijo a IPS la estudiante de derecho Adriana Santos.

El fuerte aguacero que soportó Bogotá este jueves 10 no mermó los cantos, bailes, arengas y abrazos de estudiantes y sus familiares, artistas y profesores, quienes desde siete sitios estratégicos de la ciudad avanzan por las calles rumbo a la Plaza de Bolívar, sitio emblemático en el corazón de la ciudad, rodeada por el parlamento, la alcaldía, la Corte Suprema de Justicia y la Presidencia de Colombia.

El movimiento de protesta rechaza el proyecto de reforma de la ley 30, de 1992, que rige la enseñanza terciaria o superior en Colombia, porque, asegura, intenta privatizar el sistema al incentivar la inversión empresarial y la creación de universidades con ánimo de lucro, además de atentar contra la autonomía al darle al ministerio un mayor poder de control de los centros educativos públicos.

La huelga en la educación que cumple un mes continuará, al igual que las movilizaciones, más allá de que el próximo fin de semana se reunirá la denominada Mesa Amplia Nacional Estudiantil (MANE) para pronunciarse sobre la propuesta gubernamental.

En paralelo, los huelguistas invitaron a la ministra de Educación, María Fernanda Campo, a un debate por televisión el 15 de este mes en horario de alta audiencia.

“Queremos que el país se entere de nuestro compromiso en la construcción de una propuesta de educación alternativa, democrática, con gratuidad y al servicio de la inmensa mayoría”,

explicaron los portavoces de la MANE.

“Queremos que los hijos de Colombia, de sus trabajadores más sencillos, accedan a una educación superior de calidad. Si queremos progreso necesitamos buena educación”, añadieron.

“La retirada del proyecto, más que un gesto de democracia, representa la fortaleza y la justeza que ha logrado el movimiento estudiantil”,

dijo a IPS el profesor emérito y ex rector de la estatal Universidad Nacional de Colombia Víctor Manuel Moncayo:

“Lo que vemos ahora no lo veíamos desde los años 70, cuando vivimos una muy interesante movilización estudiantil, logrando autonomía y destronando rectores”, agregó.

La protesta de estudiantes y profesores comenzó al conocerse los primeros borradores de la reforma en agosto de 2010, apenas iniciado el gobierno Santos.

La propuesta gubernamental, que para muchos representa la continuidad de la política iniciada por el gobierno derechista de Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), conocida como “la revolución educativa” y que, en esencia, tiende a la privatización, según aseguran sus críticos.

Para la elaboración del texto ahora en debate, los estudiantes pidieron participación activa, e iniciaron en abril las movilizaciones en Bogotá y otras grandes ciudades colombianas.

“Pero no hubo debate ni construcción colectiva. Los 28 foros organizados por el ministerio se constituyeron en un mecanismo idóneo para que el gobierno legitimara su proyecto”,

afirman en la comunicación enviada al parlamento.

Tras un comienzo de protestas que derivaron en incidentes y represión policial, las manifestaciones estudiantiles cambiaron para encarar lo que llamaron el “abrazatón”, realizado el 26 de octubre, y luego vino el “besatón”, el 3 de noviembre.

“En la MANE decidimos por consenso, como resolvemos todas las iniciativas, cambiar de táctica, lo que nos ha dejado jornadas emocionantes”,

señaló a IPS la representante del consejo estudiantil de la privada Universidad Externado de Colombia, Viviana Rangel.

Esta alta casa de estudios es una de las 26 privadas que se han unido a la protesta

“por solidaridad con la universidad pública, pero también porque la reforma gubernamental afecta a nuestro sector”,

agregó esta estudiante de Gobierno y Relaciones Internacionales.

Para Rangel,

“el proyecto tiene relación directa con el tratado de libre comercio (TLC) con Estados Unidos”,

que el Congreso legislativo de ese país aprobó finalmente en octubre.

“En el capítulo 11 de ese acuerdo se exige que haya inversión privada en la educación. Es decir, que aparece el ánimo de lucro, lo cual significa que se permitan alzas de matrícula por encima del índice de precios al consumidor, como es tradicional”, agregó.

“También permitirá el ingreso de universidades estadounidenses, que prepararán personas para favorecer su economía con mano de obra barata y el desmonte de otras garantías que ofrece ahora la universidad privada”, continúo.

Por eso

“Santos no puede ceder tan fácilmente, pues su compromiso con la agenda estadounidense es muy alto”,

complementó Yamile Rojas, egresada de la facultad de Derecho en la privada Universidad Libre, ante la consulta de IPS.

Rangel subrayó que, dentro del marco de las políticas neoliberales, la reforma enfatiza

“en el tema de los créditos educativos, como una auténtica pesadilla para los estudiantes y sus padres. Tras cinco años estudiando, se deberá pagar por otros 15 años”, afirmó.

En tanto, la ministra Campo insiste en el regreso a clases y argumenta que la pérdida del semestre limitará el ingreso a nuevos estudiantes el próximo año.

Los jóvenes responden que es mejor perder un semestre a toda una vida de posibilidades para ellos, y futuras generaciones.


La Lei 30 de 1992.

Fuente: IPS via Periodistas en Español


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