Chilean students clash with police in protest for free education

Chilean students clash with police in protest for free education
Tens of thousands of students in Chile have clashed with riot police while protesting for improvements to the education system. Police said they were attacked with petrol bombs and used tear gas and water cannons to break up protesters.

The march in the capital Santiago was mainly peaceful, but police used water cannons and tear gas to break up one group of demonstrators when they were attacked by petrol bombs.

Organizers reported that 80,000 people took to the streets of Santiago, but police estimated the number was closer to 37,000.

Students clash with riot police during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Martin Bernetti)

There were also major protests in the cities of Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco and Valdivia.

Students have resumed their two-year-long protest for free education, staging marches in several major cities.

Chilean students have been staging marches for free, high-quality education since 2011, and demonstrations continued throughout 2012. More than 100,000 people participated in the first such marches of 2013 in April.

While Chile’s education system is regarded as among the best in Latin America, students say it is extremely unfair.

They argue that middle class children from rich families have access to some of the best schools, while the poor have to make do with underfunded state schools. All universities in Chile are fee-paying.

The campaign for educational reform has seen the biggest protests in Chile since the country became democratic in 1990 after voting to oust the military junta of General Augusto Pinochet.

Students march during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Martin Bernetti)

A student throws a molotov cocktail to riot policemen during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Claudio Santana)

Students clash with riot police during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Martin Bernetti)

Students clash with riot police during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Martin Bernetti)

A student throews stines to riot police during a protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 8, 2013. (AFP Photo / Claudio Santana)

Riot policemen arrest a photographer during a student protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 08,2013. (AFP Photo / Martin Bernetti)

A press photographer receives medical attention after being injured during a student protest to demand Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government to improve the public education quality, in Santiago, on May 08,2013. (AFP Photo / Martin Bernetti)