By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A scuffle broke out between students and police on Tuesday night in one of São Paulo’s busiest avenues, with officers arresting four protesters. Students throughout the state have been protesting the government’s decision to reorganize the state’s public education system, closing down schools, and moving students to other facilities.
“There is no solution to these protests if the government is not willing to dialogue (with students) and have a concrete proposal,” Natalia Szermeta, coordinator of the MTST (Homeless Workers Movement) told Agencia Brasil. “Ten days, which was the proposal by the government, is not enough time to discuss (measures) with students, the education community, teachers and parents.”
The four protesters were released hours after being arrested for disorderly conduct. Protesters told local news reporters that police threw pepper spray to contain crowd which was peacefully marching down the avenue.
Since the beginning of November, when the measures were announced, students have been holding sit-ins and protests at schools. According to the São Paulo State Education Secretary approximately 194 schools throughout the state have been occupied by students protesting the new educational system.
According to the education program announced by the government, 93 units run by the state will be closed in São Paulo, with some being converted into daycare, nurseries, educational centers or libraries. The objective is to separate schools by cycles, elementary and high schools, instead of having primary and secondary school years in one, single unit. According to the government the segmentation will improve the state’s educational system.
More than 311,000 students will be affected by the proposed changes, say officials. On Friday, December 4th, teachers are scheduled to hold assemblies to decide whether to announce a statewide strike.