Students protest for education reform in Chile

Thousands of Chilean students Thursday marched through the streets of capital Santiago, demanding an end to the privatization of education and improvement in the public education system, APA reports quyoting Xinhua.

The peaceful protest saw middle-school and university students, as well as teachers, converge at Plaza Italia, a square in downtown Santiago, from where they marched through the city's main Alameda Avenue, singing, dancing and chanting their demands.

Local media sources estimated some 120,000 protesters in Santiago, although students in other major cities also launched their own protest.

The protest in Santiago was overall calm and incident free, though towards the end, scores of hooded protesters reportedly threw rocks at police officers and vandalized traffic lights.

Police retaliated with water cannons and arrested six people, according to reports.

Andres Fielbaum, president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile, called the march a success, saying it proved the two-year-old student movement for education reform was still going strong.

Fielbaum criticized candidates in the country's presidential and legislative elections, accusing them of using the student movement for their own political gain.

Eloisa Gonzalez, spokesperson for the Middle-School Students Assembly, said: "in 2013, our movement continues with the same clarity and conviction, presenting our demands as we did in ... 2011, we are still knocking on the door of the Education Ministry without getting any answers."

The protests first began in 2011, drawing the largest demonstrations since the 1990 democracy movement which toppled the military regime.

The government said Thursday's protests were "unnecessary". It had tried to coax them off Wednesday by announcing that it was earmarking an additional 158 million U.S. dollars for public city schools.

Students, however, are demanding a fundamental overhaul of the education system. Tuition in Chile is among the highest in Latin America.

The movement has succeeded in making education a central issue for the November presidential elections.

Azeri-Press news agency