Student marchers demand more funding, receive only silence

August 13, 2010

 

William Cuadra wants a scholarship.
 
The 19-year-old computer engineering major at the Costa Rican Institute of Technology (TEC) said that the extra aid would help him pay the ¢10,000 ($20) per credit hour for the degree that he hopes will guide him toward opening his own software company.
 
Yerlin Araya thinks her marine biology group from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) should be afforded more trips to conduct field studies and collect samples.
 
“We need research opportunities and we need scholarships,” the 26-year-old UCR student said.
 
Just behind Araya, Cuadra and four of his classmates carried a large white sign with a message written in English.
 
“Power comes from Knowledge; Knowledge comes from Education,” it read.
 
The banners and students and professors kept coming.
 
In lines and rows stretching for more than a kilometer, the mass of students wrapped around corners and shut down highways.
 
They marched, roughly 10,000 strong, each from their university to Casa Presidencial.  Most had different needs, but they all shared the same demand: more money.
 
“Costs keep growing and it is very hard for us to keep up with the small amount that we are given,” said Carlos Morera, vice rector of research at the National University (UNA). “The UNA is doing important research in all areas of Costa Rican society and we need to keep doing this research.”
 
President Laura Chinchilla’s administration has offered a 4.5 percent increase for the Special Fund for Higher Education (FEES) for the next five years.
 
But the public universities want more – almost 120 percent more.
 
“Eleven percent is very feasible,” said Isabel Arroyo, coordinator of the UCR’s school of business administration. “It’s just a matter of sitting down with the government and going over the numbers.”
 
At Casa Presidencial on Tuesday, no one sat down with the Chinchilla administration.
 
But from a six-foot-high stage and through the loud speakers pointed directly at Chinchilla’s office, Yamileth González, director of the National Council of University Rectors, had a clear message for the president.
 
“To defend public education is to defend the basis for the right to solidarity, to democracy and to liberty,” she said. “To invest in education is to invest responsibly in democracy and development for the good of all the inhabitants of our generation.”
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