Task 10: 'Chilean students return to classroom after strike'


SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- A million high school students returned to classrooms Tuesday after a three-week strike wrested new education money from Chile's socialist government.

Many, however, said they were skeptical about official pledges to end inequalities in the schools.

The return to school after weeks of rowdy sit-ins and sometimes-violent marches through the capital came after a long holiday weekend in Chile and as the new government of President Michelle Bachelet launched an advisory panel to draft education reforms.

Bachelet already has pledged nearly $200 million for repairs to hundreds of dilapidated schools, as well as benefits including thousands of free school lunches and free entrance exams.

Bachelet on Tuesday met with Education Minister Martin Zilic and urged officials to "go full steam ahead and draw up the best reform plans possible for boosting the quality of our education system."

But student leaders said they were wary of the 72-member presidential advisory council she set up last week to deal with student demands for reform. Students had demanded a majority of seats, but wound up with only 12 of 72.

"We won a lot through our mobilization, but there's still a lot left to fight for," said one student organizer, Maria Jesus Sanhueza.

The students on Monday announced plans for their own commission to offer proposals for improving schools, and they warned they were ready to act if the official recommendations don't satisfy them.

"We are confident that it (the council) will function. But if it doesn't, we will be the first to respond," student organizer Karina Delfino said.

Bachelet's council has three months to recommend modifications to a law enacted by former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet the day before his 1973-1990 government ended. It made municipalities responsible for education, leading to a gap in school quality between rich and poor areas.

The unexpectedly strong and fast-growing student strike was the first major challenge for the Bachelet government that took office March 11. She had campaigned to improve an education system that has failed to match the advances of Chile's vigorous free-market economy.

Text was taken from: http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/americas/06/13/chile.students.ap/index.html?section=cnn_latest

1. What do you think about the last student's strike?
2. In what way did you participate in it?
3. What do you feel with the meassures given by the government to improve Chilean education?
4. What would you say or ask President Bachelet if you are in front of her now? (In one sentence)

DEADLINE: June 17th