Thousands protest school cuts in Madrid, Barcelona

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Thousands of students and teachers marched in Madrid and Barcelona Thursday to protest public spending cuts that are set to deepen under the conservative party expected to win Sunday's general election.

Hundreds of striking teachers and students marched in Madrid, while in the northeastern city of Barcelona some two thousand students demonstrated against the threat of cuts spreading to the region's universities.

"Education is not for sale, it is for defending," read the banners carried by chanting students down a major thoroughfare in the capital.

"Public, yes, private no!" yelled the students marching through Barcelona, heading for the headquarters of the regional government.

"I am here to defend public education and universities, which are in danger," said Isabel Rubio, a 20-year-old medicine student at the Madrid demo.

The election "will not change anything. Things are going to get worse," she complained.

The Madrid students' march was due to join up later with a separate demonstration by teachers, who have been staging strikes and protests since the start of term in September, when the latest crisis cuts came into force.

Spain's regions have been forced by the central government to cut their spending to bring down Spain's deficit. The conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), expected to win Sunday's election, has promised even deeper cuts.

Protestors complain that spending cuts by PP-led regional governments are part of a drive to expand the role of the private sector in education.

"They are trying to commercialise public universities," said one Madrid demonstrator, 20-year-old journalism student Pablo Rodriguez.

"Education is a right, not a business. We are the future of the country and we feel undervalued."

Art history student Alexandra Jaksic, 19, added: "They should make cuts in other areas. Education and health are the most important things."


© 2011 AFP

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