Sept 30 - After months of protests, Chilean students demanding education reform and government representatives set date and agenda for first day of talks. Marie-Claire Fennessy reports.
EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THIS MATERIAL CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Clashes between Chilean students and police have been a regular sight over the last few months. They are demanding education reforms. Even hours before student leaders and government representatives sat down for talks, students were dodging tear gas and throwing stones at police vehicles. At the talks an agenda was set for the first day of negotiations which will take place on October 5. One student leader said the price of education would be the first topic of discussion. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CAMILA VALLEJO, STUDENT LEADER, SAYING: "Yes, there were tensions but, at the end of the meeting, we were able to make one of our principal demands prevail, which is free education and that will be the main topic that is discussed at the next meeting." Students say the high costs make higher education inaccessible and trap graduates with years of debt. The country's president, who has seen his approval ratings fall since the protests, said he prioritized education in the next years budget. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) SEBASTIAN PINERA, CHILEAN PRESIDENT, SAYING: "The 2012 education budget signals a great jump forward to improve the quality, the access and the financing of education at all levels and for all our children and young people, with a special emphasis in the strengthening of public education and transparency and good use of our state resources." Citizens complain the president is failing to distribute wealth from a copper price boom. Marie-Claire Fennessy, Reuters