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Colombia: Citizens Reject Proposal to Reform Higher Education Law 30

The proposal of the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, to reform the Higher Education Law 30 of 1992 [es] has not been received well [es]. University students, professors and common citizens agree that the majority of the proposed changes — especially those touching on financial matters and university autonomy — do not help improve the quality of education nor the lives of Colombians.

Before the matter is to be settled in the national congress, opponents of the reform proposal have tried to get the government's attention through meetings to analyze the proposal's impacts in university conferences [es], assemblies and other gatherings to debate the proposal in areas designated by the Education Ministry. A recent large national march [es] has also brought attention to the issue. Organized by Colombian Federation of Educators [es] (FECODE [es]), it took place Thursday, April 7 with students and workers joining together in protest.

The flurry of gatherings has been accompanied by internet chatter on blogs, videos, web pages, and social media networks. Despite there being Colombians that accept the reform proposal, the loudest voices heard, as much online as in the streets, have been the voices of the opposition.

On his blog [es], Sergio Fajardo, vice-presidental candidate in the 2010 elections, makes a general observation while emphasizing the serious and bleak outlook of higher education. He also calls for the debate to stay civil:

(…) No es seria la reforma. No plantea la más mínima sugerencia sobre posibles formas de enfrentar el problema de la deserción que se acerca al 50% de los estudiantes que entran a la Educación Superior. Ni siquiera tiene un estudio de mercadeo para justificar la existencia de los agentes privados que entrarían al negocio. (…)

(…) Somos muchas las personas que tenemos los argumentos y las realizaciones que nos permiten demostrar que la educación pública es crucial para construir una sociedad justa que crea igualdad de oportunidades, lo podemos hacer dando ejemplo de civilidad e inteligencia.

(…) This is not serious reform. You do not propose the weakest option over all of the other possible solutions. Something better is needed to face the problem of drop-out numbers that are nearing 50% of students that enter higher education. Not even having a market study justifies the existence of the private agents entering into the public education business. (…)

(…)We are many people and each have our own motives and competencies which permit us to to show that public education is crucial towards building a fair society that creates equal opportunity, we can be examples of civility and intelligence.

Luis Ángel Pérez Cante in his blog, disapproves [es] of the traditional media for not covering extensively the national day of protest, and also disapproves the weak state of democracy in Colombia:

Si este en realidad fuera un país democrático, los titulares de primera plana se referirían a las multitudinarias manifestaciones de ayer en todo el país donde más de 30000 personas rechazaron políticas gubernamentales del Plan Nacional de Desarrollo del gobierno Santos como su Reforma a la Ley 30 y el manejo a las regalías, además de las políticas educativas que se han venido imponiendo sin ningún consenso y las malas condiciones laborales del Magisterio.

If this really were a democratic nation, the front page headlines would make a reference to yesterday's popular protests all over Colombia where more than 30,000 people rejected the government policies in the National Development Plan under the Santos government including his Reform of Law 30 and the management of privileges, as well as the education policy that has been put into place without the least bit of consensus and the teaching profession's terrible labor conditions.

Jorge Luis Galeano in Hechoencali.com published a video [es] that shows what happened during the march in Cali, Colombia's third largest city. At the same time he relates [es] the positions of the different sides and reports the government's position:

Sin embargo, el Gobierno ha sido reiterativo en decir que las universidades no se van a privatizar y en que el capital privado no tendrá nada que ver en el precio de las matrículas. Lo que busca la reforma, ha dicho la Ministra de Educación María Fernanda Campo, “es hacer que los más de 3 millones 200 mil bachilleres que no han podido ingresar a la educación superior, tengan esa oportunidad ahora

However, the government has been firm in saying that the universities are not going to privatize and that private capital won't influence the cost of enrollment. What the reform is trying to do, the Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo has said, “is to make those more than 3 million 200 thousand high school graduates that have not been able to access higher education, to have that opportunity now.

Tomáz Garzía in his blog Mundo Desgrafiado, analyses and also explains [es] how students were removed from the University of Antioquia on March 31 by the mobile antiriot squad “ESMAD” [es]:

(…) En menos de quince minutos la policía entró por todas las porterías disparando gases e insultos, con los que metódicamente echaron fuera a todos los que en ese momento se encontraban protestando por la actual reforma a la Ley 30, que regula la educación superior en el país; y, sea dicho de paso, a los que no estaban protestando también los sacaron de la misma forma.

(…) In less than fifteen minutes the police came in through all entrances, launching tear gas and insults, with which they methodically kicked out everyone that was there protesting the current reform of Law 30, which regulates higher education in Colombia; and, by the way, those that were not protesting but were present were also removed in the same fashion.

Suregión.com, from the Colombian regional department of Huila, made a record of how the reform was received in that region, reporting [es]:

La masiva movilización contó con proclamas como “se va caer, la reforma a la Ley 30 se va caer”. La comunidad Huilense manifestó su rechazo a este proyecto de Ley que interviene el carácter de la universidad pública bajo el argumento de permitir el capital privado para una mayor cobertura y calidad.

The massive mobilization had proclamations such as “Its going down, the Law 30 reform is going down.” The Huila community demonstrated their rejection of this modification of the law that changes the basic characteristics of public universities by allowing private capital to assume a greater portion of the funding.

Crowds protest against the higher education reform in Bogota. Luis Ramirez, Copyright Demotix

Many blogs repeated and discussed what Semana.com [es] said on the subject including their list of the pros and cons of the reform proposal. Among the positives that this website noted included the following:

El Gobierno advirtió que los recursos son limitados, por eso, aliarse con la empresa privada es una alternativa.“Hoy un empresario contrata servicios con la universidad, pero queremos que no solo contrate, sino que invierta capital para desarrollar proyectos específicos, que se meta la mano al bolsillo y genere innovación con las universidades (…) que pongan la plata, vendan servicios, desarrollen conocimiento y ojalá ganen bastante”, explicó la ministra de Educación, María Fernanda Campo.

The government let it be known that resources are limited, and for this reason, allying with private enterprise became an alternative source of funding. “Today a businessman contracts services with the university, but we want that he not just contract [services] but also invests capital to develop specific projects, and generate innovation at the universities (…) that they would put down money, sell services, build knowledge and hopefully earn a lot of money,” explained the Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo.

On Facebook various [es] groups have already been created [es] rallying against the reform of Law 30. On Twitter, messages on the subject are also appearing, like this pro-reform tweet from Alex Arango (@ALEXANDERCALI) from Medellin:

Desde que garanticen la calidad en la universidad pública, yo si apoyo la reforma a la ley 30/92.

While they guarantee the quality of public universities, I do support the reform of the 1992 law 30.

Valeria Morales (@ValeriaMoralesR) tweets in disagreement:

Un pueblo q camina para adelnate y un gobierno q camina para atras, RECHAZO A LA REFORMA DE LA LEY 30.

A nation that moves forward and a government that moves backward, I REJECT THE REFORM OF LAW 30.

For his part, Edgar Acosta (@EdgarAcostaM) says:

Ayer se envidenció el inconformismo a las politicas del #Gobierno y se dijo un NO rotundo a la reforma a la ley 30/92 de Educación superior.

Yesterday the dissent was evident against the #Government‘s politics and that a resounding NO was spoken against the reform of the 1992 higher education law.

Diego Correa (@diegoco66) also rejects the proposed reform and says “it must be debated and changed,” while Pedro Nicolas Perez (@pnperezz) saw the national march as a complete success:

Que alegría hoy la marcha, una marcha pacifica y ordenada. Se lleno 3 veces la Plaza de Bolivar. En Colombia se puede el cambio, hay que creer.

It was great that today's march was orderly and peaceful. The Plaza de Bolivar filled up three times. In Colombia change is possible, you can believe it.

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