Student demonstrations took place in cities across Italy today in protest against the government’s attempt to privatise the school system. 

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has promised to ‘revolutionise’ the Italian school system over the next year. In a heavily branded campaign, the centre-left politician argued that he wanted to create what he calls ‘La Buona Scuola’ (the good school) for everyone. He claims he will do this in collaboration with the people of Italy, visiting schools across the country to hear the voices of students and their grandmas, brothers, sisters and teachers: ‘We want to listen to everyone, because there is not an ‘us’ and a ‘you’. There is only ‘our’ school’.

And yet, behind the rhetoric, the government’s decisions have already been made. Amongst other changes, it intends to: introduce private sector funding into the school system, with individual schools competing against each other for private resources; increase school opening hours;  introduce performance related pay; and make students of technical subjects do unpaid apprenticeships. 

The school students of Italy are not fooled. They gathered in their thousands across Italy today to make clear there is still an ‘us’ and a ‘you’. Their response to Renzi: ‘If you block our future, then we will block the city!’ 20,000 young people took to the streets in Rome this morning, marching to the Ministry of Education, with similar demonstrations in cities across the country. 

The students were joined by teachers striking against the privatisation and hierarchisation of the school system. Amongst other demands, they called for the government to give permanent positions to precarious teachers, against unpaid supply teaching, and for a reduction in class sizes. One teacher told Teacher Solidarity that this will be a long and deep struggle, fighting not only against Renzi’s reforms, but for an alternative really ‘good school’. 

And, as one Italian website noted, if the Prime Minister really is doing a tour of the schools of Italy, we can only hope that the students give him the welcome he deserves!