'No to education cuts!' Madrid rocked by new wave of student protests
Thousands of university and high school students flooded central Madrid in a second day of strikes Thursday organized to protest massive cuts in education funding imposed by PM Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party government.
The protests were called by the Students’ Union, which urged students to rally against cuts in spending on schools and universities and increases in education fees. The students also demanded the resignation of Education, Culture and Sports Minister Jose Ignacio Wert, who introduced the reforms.
The demonstrators started burning bins early Thursday morning at Madrid’s Complutense University, which ranks as the top educational establishment in Spain. One person was arrested "for possession of flammable material," AFP reported a police spokeswoman as saying.
In the afternoon, hundreds of protesters gathered in the center of the Spanish capital, shouting slogans such as: “No to education cuts!"
"We don't want to pay your debt with health and education," the protesters shouted, addressing the education minister, AFP reported.
"It makes me sad because they are not giving everyone the opportunity to study," one demonstrator, 18-year-old high school student Karim Martinez, was reported as saying. “They are raising fees and cutting scholarships. A lot of parents do not have the money to pay for university.”
According to the protesters, the impact of the measures on school funding and resources has become unbearable.
"The situation now is so unsustainable that there is nothing left for us to do but fight," said Marta Valenzuela, a 20-year-old criminology student. "It’s my family that has to pay, and we're having to make big sacrifices," she said, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, at least 54 people detained after similar protests Wednesday were released on bail Thursday, the police spokeswoman said. They were arrested after they put up barricades and started burning containers to block access to the campus at Complutense University.
Madrid has been hit by a wave of rallies starting March 22, when thousands of Spaniards from all over the country gathered in the center of the capital protesting against poverty and EU-imposed austerity which later turned into violent clashes with police.
In 2012, Rajoy’s government introduced a set of changes to the country's education system that introduced new grading systems and further funding cuts aimed at saving 150 billion euros ($206 billion) to stabilize public finances in the country.
The education cuts come as the country’s Finance Ministry is struggling to lower deficit levels to within European Union limits and to reduce the soaring unemployment rate, which has risen to 26 percent.