After two weeks of mobilizations and a national strike, Colombian President Ivan Duque met Friday with the 32 directors of the country’s public universities.
Students, teachers and other staff at these universities have been demanding a substantial increase in the budgets for public universities, which have been effectively frozen since the early nineties despite a massive growth in the number of students attending them and professors employed to that demand.
As a result of the negotiations, president Duque and the university representatives signed an agreement in which the state agreed to increase the 2019 budget according to inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and three percentage points extra, and for the 2020-2022 budgets, the increase would include an extra four percentage points.
Duque also said the budget for investment would reach an additional 1.2 billion pesos for the next four years and that any extraordinary profits generated by Colombia’s financial cooperatives will go to strengthen public education.
“It is great news for Colombia,” Duque said, stressing “higher education is a priority for the government.”
However, not everyone is celebrating. Through social media, Colombians have criticized the agreement saying the additional budget is not enough to address the problems that Colombia’s historically underfinanced public education system is facing, including crumbling infrastructure.
At the beginning of the demonstrations in defense of higher education students, professor, and university directors said they need a 3.2 billion pesos budget increase just to continue operations, pay professors and cover administrative expenses and 15 billion pesos to maintain quality and infrastructure.
It is still unclear if Colombia’s student movement, which was not included in the negotiations with the executive, will stop the mobilizations and resume activities. The Colombian Students’ Organization (OCE) has not issued any declarations on whether the student strike will be lifted.