Thousands of striking teachers have taken to the streets in the Chilean capital Santiago to protest against education reform plans. The peaceful rally held on Wednesday turned violent when clashes erupted between riot police and a group of protesters, which led to the arrest of a number of people.
The demonstrations against the education reform bill, proposed by the government of President Michelle Bachelet, have reportedly been staged in at least six other cities.
The new bill, currently going through the country’s Congress, reduces teachers’ wages and requires them to spend more “non-school hours” for meetings and planning. Under the new law, those who do not abide by the rules would be dismissed.
Teachers are calling for the annulment of the proposed certification exams, and better salaries and working conditions.
The Chilean government had previously said that it is open to talks with teachers' unions; however, teachers say no deal has been reached about their demands, prompting new waves of rallies.
The teachers have been on a strike for nearly 20 days while the nationwide walkout is affecting more than one million students across the country.
On June 11, another large student demonstration in the Chilean capital turned violent as police fired teargas and used water cannon to disperse the protesters.
Since 2011, protesters have been holding mass demonstrations, calling on the Chilean president to implement education reforms, increase the salaries of teachers, and gradually introduce free university education.
President Bachelet has recently come under pressure since she has failed to fulfill reforms promised in her 2013 re-election campaign.