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Massive demonstration in Barcelona in defence of public education

Teachers, administrative staff, students and parents have protested against budget cuts by the Spanish and Catalan Governments affecting primary, secondary and university education. The protest was organised throughout Spain. In Barcelona, 25,000 people according to the police and 150,000 people according to the organisers demonstrated through the city centre. Protests were also organised in other Catalan cities, such as Girona, Lleida and Tarragona.

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22 May 2012 08:31 PM

by

ACN / Lara Hitos

Barcelona (CNA).-Thousands of people demonstrated on Tuesday in Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona and other Catalan cities in support of the public education system and against the Catalan and Spanish Government cuts in education. Teachers, administrative staff, students and families with children marched together, defending quality primary, secondary and university education. Many wore yellow T-shirts with the motto \u2018SOS Quality in Public Education\u2019 on them. The protest had been organised at Spanish level by education trade unions. Barcelona hosted one of the largest demonstrations. 25,000 people according to the Catalan Police and 150,000 according to the organisers, marched from Plaça Universitat and to Ciutadella park, a journey that lasted over two hours. The demonstration passed off peacefully. There was an extensive police presence, including helicopters controlling the protest from the air.


The protest was part of a general strike in education that took place across Spain. At Spanish level, the strike had an 80% participation rate according to unions and 19.41% according to the Spanish Ministry of Education. All public and subsidised schools were called to the strike, at all educational levels: from preschools to universities, through primary and secondary schools.

26% participation according to the Catalan Government and 60%, said trade unions

In Catalonia, the Catalan Ministry of Education stated that at 1pm, 25.64% of public school staff were on strike, while the figure dropped to 2% regarding private schools receiving public funds. According to the main education unions, the strike was followed by some 55% of staff around noon, although they hoped it would reach 60% by the end of the day. Union representatives were proud of the participation figures \u201Cconsidering the economic situation\u201D. Montse Ros, from the Workers Commissions (CCOO), said that the reason for the high participation rate is that the education system \u201Chad never received such aggressive cuts, from the 0 age until university\u201D. \u201CPublic schools belong to all of us, and we have to defend it together\u201D, added Roser Font, from the General Workers Union (UGT).

Isolated protests at Catalan universities

The Catalan Government\u2019s University and Research Secretariat (controlled by the Catalan Ministry of Economics and Knowledge), stated through a press release that the participation of university teachers, researchers and administrative staff in the strike was \u201Clow\u201D but \u201Chigher\u201D among university students. In addition, they added: \u201Cacademic activity in classrooms has carried on as normal, except in the campuses affected by the action of some groups\u201D. In fact, some groups of students had blocked the access to the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona\u2019s main campus, which had 8 of its 13 faculties closed. Students also blocked the Mundet Campus of the Universitat de Barcelona for several hours. In addition, other isolated protests affected other faculties throughout Catalonia.

Claims

At Barcelona\u2019s street demonstration, a large number of people dressed in yellow attracted attention under the slogan \u2018SOS Quality in Public Education\u2019. At the head of the march, a group of children held a banner which read: \u201CWhat future awaits us?\u201D The main slogan put up by the major trade unions was \u201CNo rate hike or layoffs. Save public universities.\u201D

The main demand was against college tuition fees which will increase by 66% next year. This means an average of \u20AC500 to \u20AC1,500 more than what students in public universities already paid. By increasing tuition fees, the Spanish Government expects to save \u20AC1.542 billion.

Another complaint was the increase in class sizes. In Primary schools they will increase from 25 students to a maximum of 30, at obligatory Secondary schools (which lasts from 12 to 16 years of age) will increase from 30 to 36 pupils per class, and in High school from 35 to 42. This involves the dismissal of teachers and the loss of individualised attention to those students who require it.


Demonstrations throughout Catalonia

Demonstrations were carried out throughout all the Catalan territory: from provincial capitals such as Lleida, Tarragona and Girona, to smaller cities such as Mataró, Igualada and Sabadell. Despite the distance between cities, the slogan was similar in all: end government cuts in education and firmly defend the Catalan public education system.

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  • The demonstration in Barcelona (by O. Campuzano)

  • A demonstration in Girona's University (by L. Casademont)

  • The demonstration in defence of public education in Lleida (by O. Bosch)

  • The demonstration in Barcelona (by O. Campuzano)
  • A demonstration in Girona's University (by L. Casademont)
  • The demonstration in defence of public education in Lleida (by O. Bosch)