Chile education minister resigns amid protests
Santiago: Chile's education minister
has resigned, becoming the second minister to give up that
post amid massive student protests demanding reform, officials
said, as the agricultural minister also resigned.
Felipe Bulnes stood down "for personal reasons," after his
predecessor Joaquin Lavin stepped aside in July saying his
legitimacy had been thrown into question by the huge student
movement seeking education reform that accused him of strong
ties with a private Santiago university.
Agriculture minister Jose Antonio Galilea also resigned
for the same reasons, government spokesman Andres Chadwick
Observers said Bulnes had been disappointed by limits
placed by the government on negotiations with students who
have managed to virtually shut down Chile's education system.
His successor, Haral Beyer, was welcomed by student leader
Gabriel Boric as someone who "cares about education."
The students, backed by professors and labor unions, are
demanding that President Sebastian Pinera's conservative
government overhaul the education system to guarantee free,
quality university-level education for all Chileans.
The protests have been the biggest, and most sustained,
since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet more
than two decades ago.
Under Pinochet, state funding for public education was
slashed, privatisation encouraged and responsibility for
public schools passed to municipalities.
The result has been a highly segregated system in which
those who can afford it attend private schools and those who
can't are relegated to lower quality public schools.