Report from the struggle for education in Spain by activist, Albert Garcia
October 24, 2012
As in Greece education is one of the main targets of the Spanish state’s austerity politics. The public education system has been attacked ruthlessly and with increasing intensity throughout last year and the beginning of this one. The budget cuts affect the entire educational community, whether nurseries, primary, secondary or higher education, whether workers or students: layoffs, increased working hours, salary reductions, fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms, worse study conditions – and the ‘gentrification’ of education, embodied in the brutal 66% hike in higher education tuition fees.
The education reform bill approved by the Conservative government a few weeks ago is a classist and sexist attack on the fundamental right to universal public education, allowing public funding of sex-segregated schools and erecting new obstacles to limit the number of students able to access higher education. It is clear that the words of the Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, that “not everyone should be able to study”, are not just rhetoric. The probable bail-out of the Spanish state will only worsen the situation.
But austerity in education and especially in higher education has encountered growing resistance. Last year saw big demonstrations of tens of thousands of students, teachers and university workers, and several college strikes. The climax was on May 22, with the first general strike in education for several decades. And the summer break has not broken resistance.
On October 11, the first college strike of the present academic course took place. Last week the unions called three days of struggle in education. Especially in secondary schools in almost every city of the Spanish state this call was welcomed. On October 18, we experienced a historic breakthrough when parents’ associations joined school students on strike, showing the rage against austerity and against Minister Wert, who sought to criminalise the protests by saying that these were instigated by far-left students.
The academic year has begun early with protests, but if we want to stop cuts and privatization we must forge a massive student movement in every college, on every campus and in every secondary school. We must also link the struggles, connecting students with teachers and other public sector workers. This is a fight of the entire working class against austerity and debt re-payments. The November 14 General Strike in Southern Europe will be a day to show and forge that unity.
Students, mostly young unemployed or semi-employed workers in precarious workplaces with no trade union tradition, have to be active in the general strike. We need to close schools, colleges and workplaces and march alongside the rest of the working class to show that we want public, accessible education for all. We will defend the social rights of the working class and smash austerity like in Quebec.