Student leaders have turned down an offer to debate the Colombian government’s controversial education reforms after the minister of education ruled out the possibility of revoking the bill.
Maria Fernanda Campo on Wednesday issued an open invitation to students to meet with her and discuss their opposition to the reform, which has provoked a nationwide wave of protests and left many universities closed due to an indefinite strike.
In a press release, Campo said, “a group of students think that there has not been sufficient space and dialogue and they feel like they have not been listened to. Bearing this is mind, I want to invite the student leaders who are promoting these movements against the reform to continue the debate, to sit down and discuss the issues they feel would be detrimental to education.”
However, when the minster spoke about the invitation at a press conference, she said, “we will not revoke the reform because it will only bring benefits.”
Students from the National Student Round Table (Mane), an umbrella group of student organisations across Colombia, quickly rejected the offer.
Spokesperson Sergio Fernandez said, “We will not meet with the government until they meet three conditions: Revoke the project, provide guarantees that they will construct an alternative and provide guarantees for the exercising of democratic freedoms.”
He added that the strike, which is threatening to force many universities to abandon the semester, will continue.
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, students believe Law 30 will lead to a privatization of the education system and spiralling costs for students.