In late October, tens of thousands of students and education workers across Spain went on strike against the latest round of savage cuts and reforms. The “Green Tide”, a growing movement in defence of public education, filled the streets two days in a row chanting “Down with the reforms!” and “More public, less private!”.
The strikes affected all levels of education, from infant to tertiary. The unions estimate that between 60-70 per cent of students and around 80 per cent of staff took part.
Since 2010 education has lost around $9 billion in funding as a result of austerity, with plans to cut a further $5.7 billion before 2015.
Around 20,000 teachers have been sacked, with another 60,000 estimated to go. The cuts will also mean longer hours for teachers and a 20 per cent increase in class sizes.
“University life is increasingly difficult, while the education we receive is getting steadily worse… And some poorer students will just miss out all together,” said Carla Ayala, a student activist at Carlos III in Madrid.
University fees have risen by up to 50 per cent in some places. Around 3500 students at Madrid’s Complutense University alone will be forced to quit their studies as a result of the fee hike. Half of all under 25s are unemployed.
At campuses across the country students occupied buildings, holding assemblies to plan for future actions.
The recently passed reform “Wert’s Law”, after conservative People’s Party Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert, will make it much more difficult to qualify for university. At the same time, public funds are being diverted to private and Catholic education, while Spanish language education is being pushed in provinces where other languages are spoken. With the university system becoming increasingly elitist and homogenised, unions have argued that the reforms are a throwback to the pre-1975 Franco era.
The Green Tide movement shows no signs of slowing down, with more strikes planned for the coming month. October’s action coincided with strikes in public transport and cleaning services, also under attack from austerity cuts. Some unions have begun calling for a general strike.
By Caitlin Doyle-Marwick