Chilean teachers voted unanimously at an assembly last Friday to continue with their indefinite strike, which began at the beginning of the month. The teachers are demanding improved working conditions, smaller class sizes, more time for planning and an end to precarious contracts. Moreover 97% of the membership of the teaching union have rejected new laws being brought in by the government of Michelle Bachelet, which would see them being sacked if they refuse to do extra hours of work, imposed by the education department. 

Bachelet was elected on the back of a continuous and determined fight by high school and university students, but also by teachers, for an end to the privatisation of education and for free and democratic, public education for all. This was a campaign that found a resonance with communities all over the country. Although she has begun to enact some reforms, the protesters say she has not gone nearly far enough. Moreover some of the reforms simply continue with neoliberal policies.

To make matters worse, the police have been just as heavy-handed with the protesters under Bachelet as they were under the right wing government of Pinera. Students have been protesting the brutality of the police, who have used tear gas and other repressive measures against those demonstrating for education. Tragically, two protesting students were killed last month. Another was brutally attacked by police and is in a serious condition. 

Students have joined the teachers in protest marches and actions across the country.  Last week protestors demonstrated outside the centre of the Chilean football team, which is in training for the opening of the Copa Americana in Santiago. They saw this as an ideal way of drawing attention to their struggle and called on the national team to support them. A mass demonstration has been called for tomorrow, the 17th June.

To read more background on the long and inspirational education struggle in Chile go here.