Twenty students from secondary schools are currently on hunger strike and are willing to forego academic year, even die for the cause.
Weeks of demonstrations and strikes by Chilean students came to a head August 9, 2011, as an estimated 100,000 people poured into the streets of Santiago.
Joined by professors and educators, they were demanding a free education for all, from the primary school level to the university.
In the riotous confrontations that took place between bands of youth and the police, tear gas canisters were fired into the crowds, and 273 people were arrested.
Later on, in the cool winter evening, the deafening noise of people banging on their pots and pans in support of the students could be heard throughout Santiago, the country's capital city of six million.
Under the 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, much of Chile's educational system was privatized, and even after he left power in 1990, private education continued to prevail.
Today, 70 percent of university students attend private institutions.
Forty-two social organizations grouped together under the banner “Democracy for Chile” have rallied to back the student movement.
Their manifesto proclaims: “The economic, social and political system is in a profound crisis that has compelled the communities to mobilize …
An unprecedented and historic movement of citizens is questioning the bases of the economic and political order that were imposed in 1980” by the Pinochet constitution.