sábado, setembro 18, 2010

Students protest education in Argentine capital

Thousands of young Argentines marched to the presidential palace on Thursday to protest the quality of public education, joining a student rebellion that accuses politicians of neglecting schools and universities that were once the envy of Latin America.

High schoolers have occupied about 30 public schools in Buenos Aires to protest their deteriorating conditions. The takeovers later spread to public universities, with students occupying a half dozen, this week, teachers joined the rebellion, putting 700,000 students out of school.

Students carrying a giant model of a pencil on their shoulders like a coffin and crosses symbolizing the death of public education on Thursday marched from Argentina's Congress to the presidential palace. They cite abysmal conditions in schools, including a lack of heating gas, poor electrical systems, leaky ceilings and broken windows, among other problems.

"For a long time, years, decades, a policy of cutting funding to public education has been carried out and this policy has reached such an extreme that the conditions needed to study almost do not exist," said Itai Hagman, president of the Buenos Aires University Federation.

Early in the 20th century, Argentina had a public education system considered a model for Latin America that assured most citizens access to free schooling. But that system came under fire during Argentina's dictatorship and was later subjected to financing cuts under market-oriented democratic governments.

Thursday's march coincided with the 34th anniversary of the "Night of the Pencils" remembering a group of high school students who were abducted and killed during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

Continue to read this news...The protesters' ire is directed at conservative Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, who handles high school financing, and center-left President Cristina Fernandez, whose government administers public universities.

"Our recent governments have not paid attention to public education. We want that to change," said Agustina Scattolini, 20, who is one of the students occupying a Buenos Aires high school for almost two weeks.

Buenos Aires' Education Ministry says that only 100 of the city's 1,200 schools have budget problems and that its education budget for 2010 is the highest in the last eight years. The federal government says it spends 6.45 percent of GDP on public education, one of the highest figures in recent decades. In both cases, however, most of the money is spent on teacher salaries and not on infrastructure.

"Unfortunately we have been very patient over the years, but out patience is over. We want practical solutions," said Hagman.

terça-feira, setembro 14, 2010

Student occupations in Argentina

Students in Buenos Aires have taken to the streets in protest against the appalling conditions to be found in many of the city’s schools. A lack of heating in the cold winter just coming to an end has brought to a head a state of neglect which has been building up for several years. In the inimitable style of Argentine tradition, there have not only been occupations of at one point as many as forty of the city’s secondary schools, but classes have been taking place in the street. The protests have been going on for a month, and have now been been joined by university students belonging to several faculties where buildings are in similarly bad condition.

This was not what I was expecting to find when I arrived in Buenos Aires to give a talk about teaching documentary at an event promoted by the Ministry of Education and intended primarily as a showcase for creative practices in the universities. I was also supposed to be speaking at the University of Buenos Aires, which was cancelled when Social Sciences, the faculty where this was due to take place, was occupied when a window fell on one of the students. So instead I go to film the occupation, and the demonstration being mounted outside the Ministry of Education. Here’s the result.

Occupations by secondary school and university students in Buenos Aires, September 2010. A video by Michael Chanan.

terça-feira, setembro 07, 2010

Student Loans, Gateway Drug to Debt Slavery

One of the most important lessons students learn in college is how to get into debt and stay there. It's crucial to the success of the Republic. An indebted population is easier to control; needing to pay off crushing debt - a debt that if defaulted on has been stripped of many normal consumer protections and rights - graduates more willingly shuttle into cubicles, becoming the square pegs demanded by the square holes. After a few futile years of floundering idealism, their souls have been successfully jackbooted into powder and they're ready to keep the thumb on the next generation of would-be drones so as to protect their empire of matchsticks. But how did we get here? This chunky infographic examines the origins and (d)evolution of the student loan leviathan.

Government of Canada expects student loan debt to surpass $15 billion this month

The total value of student loans owed to the federal government will surpass $15 billion this September, according to a regulatory change filed by Diane Finley, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (HRSDC).

"Student debt has reached epidemic proportions", said David Molenhuis, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "Instead of investing funds to make education more affordable and reduce the record levels of student debt, the government is attempting to quietly sweep it under the rug".

On August 20, the Governor General approved a request by the Minister of HRSDC to change the method of calculating the amount of outstanding student loans. To justify the issue the Minister wrote, "As currently calculated, the legislated ceiling of $15 billion in outstanding student loans, as specified in section 13 of the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, is expected to be reached in September 2010".

"Record high tuition fees have left today's students graduating deeper into debt than any previous generation", added Molenhuis. "Addressing Canada's student debt crisis requires a national strategy to reduce tuition fees, not an administrative change to hide the level of student debt".

The Canadian Federation of Students is Canada's largest student organisation, uniting more that one-half million students in all ten provinces. The Canadian Federation of Students and its predecessor organisations have represented students in Canada since 1927.