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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Chile students call off protest
Chilean students protest on Wednesday
Hundreds of thousands of students joined weeks of protests
Secondary school students in Chile have called off a series of strikes and street protests which were backed by hundreds of thousands.

"We're going back to class," said student leader Juan Carlos Herrera.

He said he was satisfied with concessions won from the government over weeks of protest - including extra funding for education.

Students had initially wanted further concessions but analysts say the public mood had started to turn against them.

The week began with a massive walkout which organisers said was joined by a million students and teachers.

But the protest was marked by clashes between students and police in the heart of Santiago, and students began drifting back to lessons after President Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday her offer was final.


Ms Bachelet has ordered the creation of a presidential advisory panel which will seek to reform a law introduced by authoritarian former leader Augusto Pinochet.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet
Bachelet said she was "pleased" the protests had ended

The law put often cash-strapped local municipalities in charge of education, which critics say increased the gap in the quality of education offered at state and private institutions.

Twelve of the 74 seats on the panel will be allocated to student representatives.

In addition, Ms Bachelet will spend an additional 192m (104m) next year in providing subsidised transport, some free lunches and mostly free entrance exams, and renovation of run-down school facilities.

Quoted in Chilean newspaper La Tercera, Ms Bachelet said she was "pleased that now we will get back to working for what is important in our country, which is to improve the quality of education, and to work together".

The confrontation with students had been her first major domestic crisis since taking office in March.

Some commentators are concerned that by offering significant concessions to the students, the government has opened the door to confrontations with other social groups.

Others applaud the concessions, pointing out that Chile has enjoyed a bonanza from soaring copper prices and enjoys a large budget surplus, and yet endures dilapidated public services and facilities.

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