Over 30 secondary schools in Buenos Aires are not in session. Photo via Clarín.

Over 30 public schools across the city of Buenos Aires have been closed for over four weeks, a result of students demonstrating their opposition to the government’s educational reforms. The students are protesting the government’s so-called Plan Maestr@ or Plan Nacional Decenal de Educación, which, among other policies, aims to ease students’ transitions to the labor market vis-á-vis internships in their final year of school.

The students organized a new protest on Monday to reject the reform and, while they are at it, demand the reappearance of missing witness Jorge Julio López, who went missing in 2006 while he was waiting to take the stand against a former dictatorship-era repressor. Students and parents have criticized the government for, they say, deciding upon a reform without consultation with schools or having a sufficient understanding of the day-to-day activities in schools. However, not all parents are in favor of the occupation. A Twitter account advocating for classes to resume at the prestigious Carlos Pellegrini public school (and apparently representing parents), for example, took to Twitter to say that the occupation negatively “affects our children’s constitutional right to education”.

City Education Minister Soledad Acuña agreed with those opposed to the protests and promised to resolve the matter peacefully through dialogue.

“I again insist that every day that a student does not have classes is a day in the future that they lose. For this reason we appeal fo fellowship, to tolerance and a good disposition that characterizes a dialogue in which everyone can clear up their concerns. We want all of the schools to be open and do their duty, teaching and developing the future for all of you,” Acuña said in a letter to the student groups.

The Education Minister will meet with student representatives of at least 23 schools on Sept. 20 between 12:00  PM and 3:00 PM. Clarín reported that Government officials declared that the student groups needed to select a single representative to represent themselves at the Wednesday meeting. Meanwhile, on Wednesday at 2:00 PM, student activists will stage a protest in front of Congress to reject the reform that was implemented without their consultation.

“Dialogue is the only tool possible and effective to reach consensus and resolve a difficult situation. For this reason we return to come together so that we can join in dialogue like we have done from day one: during 2016 we met every Monday in the student centers and in 2017 we have met with representatives from 53 schools,” Acuña stated in a letter to the student groups.

The government’s education reform proposes that all students in public school should complete internships with businesses in their last years of school. Such a dual education system is intended to ensure that students can earn positions in the particular businesses or general industries where they completed internships. As Edgardo Zablotsky of Infobae argued, “the result of this is that the students will become a part of the business not only with the necessary technical understanding, but also with a level of comfort with the organizational culture and acquisition of social habits that one needs to develop successfully in this area.”

The ambitious plan, which contains a total of 108 objectives, could ease a student’s transition to the labor market and help businesses develop a professional workforce. On the other hand, many students would rather spend time continuing their studies and working to ease their transition to university.

In addition to requiring students to complete a dual education, the extensive proposed policy has 13 key points, which are to be implemented between 2016 and 2026. The government’s plan is intended to reduce the inequality between public and private schools in Argentina and transform the workforce.

“There is terrible inequality. Those who cannot go to private school choose public school. But they are born where they are born, children need to have the same opportunities,” President Mauricio Macri said. As Macri’s government negotiates with representatives of schools across the city, its goal will be to incorporate the students in a policy process and convince them that it can achieve each side’s objectives.