Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Italian streets hit by protests

Protesters near the Colosseum in Rome, 30/10/08
Rome was the scene of one of the biggest protests

Tens of thousands of teachers, students and parents have marched through Italian cities in protest at reforms they fear will "destroy" schools.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's multi-billion-euro education cuts were voted into law on Wednesday.

It has been reported that up to 130,000 teachers' jobs could be cut.

Organisers claimed that up to one million people marched in the capital, and that nine out of 10 schools across the country were closed.

There was no official confirmation of that estimate.

"I have worked for 25 years but I am here today to defend my younger colleges. I think the others have the right to dream a future," Rossella Angelini, a teacher who had travelled to join the protest in Rome, told the Reuters news agency.

Marches also took place in Milan, Turin, Venice, Naples and other cities. In some places, the protests have been going on, on a smaller scale, for weeks.

Mr Berlusconi has reacted to the protests by saying: "I regret that young people have been manipulated by the left."

Referendum attempt

The plans include changes to primary school education, including a return to one all-purpose class teacher, who will remain with the same class for five years.

They will also reinstate a 10-point system for grading pupils' conduct, aimed at curbing bullying.

Riot police on guard during student demonstrations, Rome, 30/10/08
Riot police were on guard after scuffles had broken out on Wednesday

Universities also face budget cuts.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini said the measures "will bring seriousness and merit back to schools".

But Domenico Pantaleo of the General Confederation of Labour union said: "These are not reforms, these are just budgetary cuts. The government is destroying public schools and replacing them with a private system."

The opposition is trying to raise enough signatures on a petition to force a referendum on the reforms.

After the government decree became law on Wednesday, with 162 senators voting in favour and 134 against, some scuffles broke out in Rome.

At the Piazza Navona, a popular tourist spot, several people were lightly injured in a clash between left- and right-wing students.

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