Student protests in Bogota Thursday caused Colombia’s capital city to effectively shut down, as nationwide tens of thousands of students took to the streets to protest against a proposed government bill to reform higher education.
The city’s mass transport network, Transmilenio, was forced to stop selling tickets and cease operations due to the chaos caused by protesters, while major thoroughfares such as route 30 and route 45 were temporarily shut down as a result of major traffic jams.
The students, who have been on academic strike for weeks, decided to cancel a proposed meeting between student leaders and the Education Minister, Maria Fernando Campo, choosing protest over dialogue. One of the student leaders, Sergio Fernandez, told W Radio, “the only way to return to dialogue is for the government to withdraw the project.”
The students chose to continue their ongoing protest against the proposed educational reforms, despite the increasing likelihood that the university semester will be cancelled.
Student leader Fernandez went on to say, “we will not permit the loss of public education. We would prefer to lose the semester, or whatever it takes, than to lose this right.”
In a response, President Juan Manuel Santos said there are no valid arguments to withdraw the reform which seeks to “improve the quality of higher education.”
The government claims the proposed reform, known as “Law 30,” will see the injection of desperately needed funds into the education system, improve the quality of the education system and increase access.
However, critics believe Law 30 will lower the quality of the academic studies, undermine the autonomy of universities, and spiral the cost of education for students.