While 17-year-old Matias Cartenas may attend Liceo del Aplicación, one of the most prestigious high schools in Chile, he does not let that fact deter him from speaking up on behalf of others. Cartenas is one of many high school students protesting for national education reform. For more than seven months, students have occupied their campuses, led countrywide strikes and marched through Santiago in crowds as big as 100,000.

One of their chief concerns is inequality in the education system, which was put in place during the military dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s. The system prevents anyone from the lower class from receiving a true education, thus barring the nation’s poor students from advancing to better careers, better wages and a higher standard of living. Furthermore, high schools receive varying amounts of resources from the municipalities and those amounts are based on attendance. Thus, many rural schools receive far less funding and provide fewer resources for its students.

After 21 years of a “democracy,” Chileans are demanding for real representation at the education table. Some are also calling for a new Constitution, which was also put in place during Pinochet and has remained—even after the military man lost his amnesty and was tried in court for crimes against humanity. Now the education movement has grown so big that parents, professors and unions are all involved. The issue is now on the mind of every Chilean, including the tens of thousands participating in this November 5 march.

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