International day for the right to study. Demonstrations taking place even in Italy

Italian article written by Roberto D’Amico – English Translation by Francesco Preziosa

Maybe for the first time, the 10th November has been marked by a large-scale student revolt. The  heat of the protest melted the British rigid attitude, thus turning London into a “style 68” scenario. Students across Great Britain gathered in the capital to demonstrate against the “spending review”, the measure consisting of cutting public expenditure which, hence, will increase the cost of university students’ taxes.

What happened on Wednesday 17th November across Italy is very similar to the protest occurred in the UK. Over 200,000 students marched off to protest against cuts in education imposed by the reform of the Minister of Public Education Maria Stella Gelmini.

More than 100 cities were struck by the revolt: 20,000 students in Rome, 10,000 in Turin and Milan, 5,000 in Florence, 3,000 in Bologna, Naples and Palermo, 2,000 in Cagliari. Together to ask for the Minister’s resign, the increase of funds required to finance  education and research and keep Italian universities from becoming private, for a more fruitful collaboration between companies and universities.

The date chosen for the demonstration was not fortuitous. In Athens on 17th November 1973 students occupying the Polytechnic of the Greek capital were violently chased away. Twenty four people died and, in memory of that unjustified slaughter, the International Day for the right to study was created.

Certainly, the Roman demonstration caused a lot of comments, both for the number of participants and for the institutions involved throughout the parade. The appointment for everyone, students from universities and high schools, was at 9,00 a.m. in Piazza della Repubblica. Once reached the required number, the parade went across several streets of the capital; then, once arrived in front of the buildings of the institutions, students of different groups went to the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, whereas students of high schools and democratic associations continued to march to Piazza Navona, thus protesting before the Senate.  So many associations joined the strike: as well as university and students’ groups, there were also the Giovani Comunisti Italiani (Italian young communists), la Federazione degli Studenti (Students’ Federation, SdS) and the Rete Universitaria Nazionale (National university network, Run).

Unfortunately, even during a day which is supposed to unite the awareness of all students to create a pacific protest, riots were not missing. In Pisa, a part of the protesters moved away from the authorized parade and went to the seat of Confindustria, the Italian employers’ federation. Despite the efforts made by the police, students reached their target to throw tomatoes at the glasses of the building.

In Milan, the branch of the bank Banca Fideuram in Corso di Porta Romana was bludgeoned. Also in this case, some people with their face covered moved away from the parade to go to the Provveditorato agli Studi (Local Education Authority) and struck the bank, which, at that time , was open for its customers.

In conclusion, it was an important day which highlights the serious crisis the Italian university as well as students in general are undergoing. An unmissable event to strongly emphasize the right of study and research and, above all, a better safeguard of the path which leads Italian young people from the world of study to that of work.




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