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Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK


French school protests set to intensify

Violence and looting marred the demonstration in Paris

France's education minister has promised action to hire more teachers and modernise schools following massive demonstrations by discontented secondary school pupils.

Claude Allegre said the moves had been agreed upon during a meeting with student representatives on Thursday, when an estimated 500,000 pupils marched in towns and cities across the country.

Police report that several small demonstrations took place on Friday. In the southwestern city of Bayonne, around 150 students briefly occupied the train station and unsuccessfully tried to block the departure of a high-speed TGV train.

[ image: More than 100 people were arrested during the violence]
More than 100 people were arrested during the violence
And in the port of Saint-Malo in Brittany, more than 100 students blocked an electricity plant powered by tidal water before dispersing peacefully after a short protest. Other protests were reported in Marseille and eastern France.

The students' main complaints are overcrowded classrooms, a lack of teachers, outdated facilities, and heavy workloads.

Mr Allegre said that he and the student leaders had agreed on "immediate action" to tackle overcrowded classrooms.

He added that he was "aghast and sorry" about violence during Thursday's marches that left at least two people seriously injured and more than 100 young people in custody.

But the student leaders expressed disappointment after meeting with Mr Allegre.

More demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, and two French teachers' unions have called on their members to join the protests.

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