Argentina: High-School Students Occupy Eight Schools to Protest Education Reform, Gender-Based Violence

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Source: Revista Venceremos / The Dawn News / September 3, 2017

“Occupying Schools is Defending Education. I Support Students who Struggle” / Photo Credit: Resumen Latinoamericano

The Argentine government announced the new educational reform that will be tested in four months in selected schools. It’s called “The HIgh School of the Future”, and its interests are plain and simply corporate. Students will work for no pay in companies during their senior year—and as a consequence, teachers will lose hours of work.

As a response to this announcement, in the last week of August, some schools were occupied by their students, who announced that September will be a month of struggle. They decided that their demands were important and legitimate enough to justify a louder measure than the roadblocks they had been carrying out—which weren’t heard by the authorities.

After several student assemblies, they voted for the option of occupying schools. There are currently eight schools under student occupation.

Maia, who is a member of the Rogelio Yrurtia School Student Council, affirms that:
“The ‘School of the Future’ is a hypocritical name for a plan that proposes to implement new technologies in a context where there are not enough classrooms for students, and school buildings are deteriorating more and more”.

“They want to cut classes like History, which is fundamental to know our past and be able to decide our future. They want us to be stupid, and they’re preparing us to be slaves”.

She also said the second reason for the occupation is the emergency in gender-based violence. There have been cases of rape and other forms of violence inside and outside of the institutions, where victims have been students.

“Occupied School” / Photo credit: Resumen Latinoamericano

Dante, member of the Student Council of High School No. 9, said that during the occupation of their school, students are organizing alternative education classes, with the participation of solidary teachers and parents. The experiment is successful so far. “We’ve organized things in such a manner that everybody helps each other. We have workshops for recreation and for awareness. We want to study, and we believe that this reform won’t allow us to study. Besides, our goal is not just to stop this, we’re demanding a radical improvement in education”.

About the occupation, he said: “It is the duty of all students to occupy the school. The fight we’re fighting is not just for us—it’s also for our kids and future generations. Our demands are legitimate and we need to act together. There’s a growing potential because schools are joining this movement and this is essential to stop the reform. We’re on our way to a second edition of the massive student protests that impressed the country with 60 occupied schools in 2012, and we want an immediate response from the Ministry to our demands”.

The State Lashes out Against Students

Students in one of the occupied high schools, the Rogelio Yrurtia School of Arts, were alerted in the early hours of last Sunday when the fire alarm suddenly went off. It was the fourth night of the occupation, and around 5 pm they were startled by the sound of the fire alarm. After gathering in a classroom and investigating, they found out that the only place inside the building where the alarm could be activated was a classroom that was locked and inaccessible. Therefore, they concluded the fire alarm had been activated from outside, which led them to suspect it had been an intentional attempt to scare them.

Afterwards, when a group of students exited the building, they were followed by a vehicle belonging to the State’s garbage collecting department.

In Public High School No. 9, police agents showed up to demand personal identification data from the students, but students refused. The group of around 10 agents attempted to kick down the door and enter by force. “Everything is getting worse”, said student Malena Belous. “Repression, police. We know something can happen to us—we’re trying to prevent it, but we know the consequences in this country where repression is getting worse and public schools seem to be unimportant”.

The day after these events, students gathered in an assembly and decided to continue the occupation and publicly denounce the intimidation.

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