Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has urged student protesters to go back to school, following four weeks of strikes which have paralyzed universities across the country.
President Santos wrote on his Twitter account, “There is no time to lose. I hope the students return to classes as soon as possible.” It is the fifth time in five days he has called for students to end their protest.
The strike – sparked by government plans to change the way university education is financed – has paralyzed activities in most of the country’s 32 public universities, attended by around 600,000 students.
The students’ collective, National Board for Alternative Education (MANE), voted Sunday to maintain the strike until the higher education reform package, known as “Law 30”, has been officially withdrawn. They believe it will lead to the privatization of universities and threaten their autonomy.
President Santos formally instructed his education minister Friday to take the reform off the tablet, but official withdrawal of the project requires a congressional vote.
MANE is demanding not only a congressional withdrawal of Law 30, but also a public promise from President Santos that he will work with the university community to build a new reform package that “responds to the real needs of the Colombian nation.” They also want him to guarantee their right to protest.