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Monday, July 11, 2011

The pupil outdoes the teacher

Jorge Enrique Robledo, Bogota, 1 April 2011

[Translated by Peter Lenny, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]


That Santos dares do worse things than Uribe, there is no doubt. One example is his proposal of for-profit universities. That is, businesses pure and simple where the quality of education, the level of fees, labor conditions, libraries and laboratories – everything, in fact – is secondary to investors' single-minded interest in securing maximum profits, even when that means draining their customers – including the students – and granting titles that certify even the most mediocre of educations as good. Any suggestion that there will be State oversight is just laughable.

Senior figures in the Santos-Uribe camp are also working to throw open private and – so the proposal prides itself – public universities to foreign capital, just as recommended in the  FTA with the United States that they are clamoring for so repulsively. Colombia's private universities (which are required by today's laws to be non-profit) are quite right when they reckon they will lose out to competition from foreign interests – which, to cap it all, will snap up the business of mis-educating Colombia's youth, along with a substantial part of the public funding that goes to Icetex (the Colombia's educational credit and foreign technical studies agency), because the provisions on for-profit education also stipulate that the State is to subsidize it with public funds.

It is an insult to the intelligence to say that, as businesses, universities will improve the quality of education, when everyone knows that capital can make big profits whether the goods are high-quality, average or poor. Everyone also knows that high-quality goods entail high costs (fees, in this case), that nearly no Colombians are in any position to pay. Accordingly, contrary to what the government is saying, what will be offered is poor quality education.

Also embedded in the official proposal is another outrage that is little mentioned and will lead to disaster. Even the Rector of the National University of Colombia has said that the law does not address the deficit of the public universities, which are on the brink of collapse. Here you have Juan Manuel Santos to the full: quality education and good business deals for the few and crisis, ignorance and poverty for the rest – all very much in line with the backward, impoverished country they are striving to set up. How long are they going to try the Colombian people's patience?

The directors of Caldas University are making a serious mistake if they insist on imposing fee hikes of up to 330%. Rather destroy the university than save it at the cost of expensive fees. It would be more sensible to foster the widest possible unity in demanding that the national government finance public education appropriately.

Controller-General of the Republic, Sandra Morelli, has just notified the Health Superintendent, Conrado Gómez, warning him against granting Saludcoop more than 600,000 million pesos from the health budget, because that operation would convert the funds into assets of the EPS (health insurance organization). If there is anything that cannot happen it is for an EPS to take ownership of para-fiscal public funds that should be spent exclusively on medications, doctors and other health workers, procedures and hospitalizations and even administration, all to serve Colombians' health needs. Let the EPS increase their wealth with the profits the system allows them to make on the pretext of administering it – all well and good, as long as the deplorable law that allows that state of affairs continues to exist – but they cannot be allowed to pocket money that the rules forbid them from taking.

According to Barack Obama, the United States encourages war and uses the CIA in Libya because their interests so dictate. If European governments involved were frank they would acknowledge the same thing. You can hold a position critical of the Libyan government, but it is quite another thing to back world powers – with the shameful acquiescence of the Colombian government in the UN – when they arrogate the right to impose their points of view at gunpoint. Non-interference by one country in the affairs of another should be sacred, and those who attack sovereign countries in the name of false humanitarian causes are really moved by the greed of transnational oil corporations and imperial interests. This means it is highly irresponsible of the United States and European governments to try to take up citizens' protests in the region by military aggression. They may well cause other Iraqs and Afghanistans.


(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered and the source, author, and translator are cited.)



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