Nicaraguan government represses school students
By Stephen Marks
MANAGUA — Fifteen members and leaders of the Federation of Secondary Students (FES) have been expelled and seven teachers sacked following demonstrations at a march-past of school students in the Managua Stadium on September 14.
Students across the country parade in front of civic leaders on this day throughout Nicaragua. The president, the ministers and diplomats ready to take the salute on the podium were horrified when the first banner to fly in the crowded national stadium was the red and black flag of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.
As the they marched past the officials, many students suddenly displayed FES headbands and others revealed banners demanding free education. One group even unfurled a banner which called the minister a despot! Spectators in the stands cheered and applauded the students while the politicians called in the riot police.
After disabled soldiers, some of whom are now students, raised a banner in support of increased pensions, riot police ploughed in with night sticks and rifle butts. A dozen protesters were severely bashed. The expulsions followed later in the week.
Nicaraguan secondary students have been campaigning against government-introduced fees. Primary students have to pay $1.50 and secondary students $3 per month. With unemployment running at 70%, families cannot afford to pay, and thousands of students have been forced to abandon school.
The students have been emboldened by the university students' successful campaign for increased university funding. In the city of Masaya, for example, they have waged a strong campaign against fees. Where the government has collected fees, it is now giving part of the money to local councils so they can run the schools. This is another step towards privatisation of education.