Chile’s Education Minister Felipe Bulnes
Chile’s education minister resigned Thursday, becoming the second minister to give up that post amid massive student protests demanding reform, officials said, as the agricultural minister also resigned.
Felipe Bulnes stood down «for personal reasons,» after his predecessor Joaquin Lavin stepped aside in July saying his legitimacy had been thrown into question by the huge student movement seeking education reform that accused him of strong ties with a private Santiago university, reports AFP.
Agriculture minister Jose Antonio Galilea also resigned for the same reasons, government spokesman Andres Chadwick said.
Observers said Bulnes had been disappointed by limits placed by the government on negotiations with students who have managed to virtually shut down Chile’s education system.
His successor, Haral Beyer, was welcomed by student leader Gabriel Boric as someone who «cares about education.»
The students, backed by professors and labor unions, are demanding that President Sebastian Pinera’s conservative government overhaul the education system to guarantee free, quality university-level education for all Chileans.
The protests have been the biggest, and most sustained, since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet more than two decades ago.
Under Pinochet, state funding for public education was slashed, privatization encouraged and responsibility for public schools passed to municipalities.
The result has been a highly segregated system in which those who can afford it attend private schools and those who can’t are relegated to lower quality public schools.