Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy La Nacho

Protesters on the National University's Plaza del Che prepare a communal meal beneath a mural celebrating student protests in Chile. 
Sarcasm? 'Education for Prosperity'
Colombia's public university system is mostly shut down because of student strikes and protests  against a proposed reform, known as the 30 Law, which would allow private financing of public univeresities. Some of the public university students - or, at least the ones who make themselves heard - are very leftist and wary about control by either the private companies or government exercising control over the universities - even tho the government heavily subsidizes the public university system.

UN on Strike
The repeated marches thru Bogotá and constant demonstrations on university campuses aren't really modeled after the 'Occupy' demonstrations in the U.S., or even the Indignados in Spain. Rather, anti-government protesting is a long tradition on Colombia's public university campuses, and in this case the protesters' most direct inspiration appears to be coming from the students in Chile, who have been demonstrating there for months. But the Chilean students are occupying Santiago's central square, something which hasn't happened in Bogotá.

Guerrilla priest Camilo Torres has been
decorated by protesters' paint bombs.
The Colombian government says it's modified the proposed legal reform, taking the protesters' concerns into consideration. Certainly, private financing would permit increased enrollment, allowing more lower-income students to get subsidized public educations instead of having to pay for expensive private universities. But it's also true that private money comes with strings, and that few companies are generous enough to pay for research which conflicts with their business interests.

A speaker who warned that reforms would
mean universities would turn out
'slaves of consumerism.'
While we were on Che Plaza, a protester yelled out that the proposed reform would turn students into 'Slave of consumerism.' Well, if they follow U.S. patterns, that could certainly happen.

And, in any case, the opposition generated by the proposed reform doesn't appear to be waning. I wonder whether there's a possible third way, such as establishing new public/private universities, or reaching agreements with private universities in which they would receive corporate financing in return for accepting low-income students on scholarship.

But the protesters, as is their wont, do a lot of denouncing but little proposing of solutions.

Related post: Protesters Paint the Police

Everybody Join the Strike!

Staging a strike also includes fun and games. 

'Here, the people's education is being fought for.'

Che Guevara's portrait overlooks it all. 

'We are going to stop the neoliberal education.' (It rhymes in Spanish)

'Militarization is speciest.' Have to think about that one...

'Liberty for political prisoners.'

'Race for education.'

¡Warning! Building free, quality education.

Carrying a table past a graffiti proclaiming that 'Education isn't merchandise.'

Taking advantage of free time while waiting for the revolution. 

'This is what I think of your reform,' says a mural in the National University.

'Long live the strike,' proclaims a mural in central Bogotá.

A list of demands hangs beside the portrait of El Che on the National University's Plaza del Che .

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

John said...

Where in the new version of the proposed reform do you think that it would "allow private financing of public universities"? I haven't read the whole thing carefully, but in Article 142, which lists the income sources of national universities, it mentions no such thing:

My only other guess is that the "aportes adicionales" of Article 144 could be construed as private investment, or else that people have confused the new version of the proposed reform with the old version...