Hundreds of thousands of Argentines marched in downtown Buenos Aires Thursday in defense of the public education system and to reject cuts announced by President Mauricio Macri’s administration amid the country's ongoing International Monetary Fund-backed austerity measures.
The march took place during the fourth week of a strike by workers at national universities. In the days leading up to the march professors and students held classes in public spaces and organized occupations of universities across the country to shed light on the current crisis in the Argentine higher education system.
“We didn’t come only for the salaries, but also for the funding of public and free university education,” Monica Pipino, a professor at the National University of Rosario, explained in an attempt to counter the narrative advanced by government officials, who claim the conflict is based exclusively on wages.
Last month, Macri’s government announced a US$99 million (over $3 billion Argentine Pesos) in cuts to the public education sector and a halt in infrastructure projects. This announcement aggravated the demand for salary increases that respond to the increasing rate of inflation.
“We’ve entered the fourth week of the strike, and we have only just managed to end the media blackout,” Pipino said stressing the importance of massive street mobilization.
Those who couldn’t travel to Buenos Aires organized marches in various cities around the country adding to the thousands, who have shown support for the teachers and students struggle.
Despite the rain students, professors and non-academic workers of the country’s 57 public universities participated in the National University March, which began in Plaza de Mayo and concluded at the doors of Argentina's presidential Palace Casa Rosada to state what they consider a simple truth “education is not a privilege, it’s a right.”
“In Casa Rosada there is a group of business people bent on destroying the public university. And here there are hundreds of thousands bent on defending it,” Luis Tiscornia of the Conadu University Union said during the closing event.
Walter Merkis, secretary general of Argentina’s Federation of National University Workers, highlighted the importance of public higher education to guarantee a better future echoing a common slogan in these protests “without the university, there is no future!”