This Saturday (November 24) thousands of teachers and students march through central Rome, the Italian capital, protesting cuts to education spending.
Thousands of students and teachers protested against education spending cuts. Mario Monti, the prime minister, has pushed through various austerity measures including tax increases, decreases in public spending, and cuts to spending on education. Schools and universities say they desperately need more support.
Student protester Tommaso Bernardi said:"We need to fight for our rights. This government doesn't represent us and these austerity measures and all the cuts they've introduced are totally anti-democratic." Michele Orezzi who is a university union coordinator complained that the system was crumbling into pieces:"We need to change this country, starting from investments in schools, universities and culture."
The economic situation is grave, particularly among youth. Youth unemployment is at a staggering 35%, over three times the average which is already high. With the austerity measures hurting education, students have been active in anti-government protests. In Rome, students have occupied schools, chaining gates shut, and camping inside classrooms to express their anger at the education cuts.
Meanwhile a summit designed to approve the new European Union trillion dollar budget ended in failure Friday. After bargaining for two days in Burssels, EU leaders could not agree whether to spend more on increasing growth or continue with more austerity programs.
Mario Monti, the present Italian prime minister was appointed after former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was forced out of office. Although many were happy to see Berlusconi go, Monti was not elected but appointed by president and parliament. Monti was regarded as a safe technocrat who was well acquainted European Union politics. Monti has defended his austerity plan., saying his technocratic government would be remembered for having helped Italy pull itself out of deep economic troubles without resorting to a bailout from foreign lenders. At the present moment, however, he is facing considerable social unrest caused by his austerity measures that have lost many workers their jobs and driven some businesses out of business.
On the appended video Monti speaks on Talk to Al Jazeera about the future. He claims that Italy is now dome with austerity. Perhaps he should tell that to the demonstrators.
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