Greek students, teachers launch new wave of protests

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ATHENS, Nov 1 (Reuters) Greek students and teachers launched a new wave of anti-government protests today, rallying in central Athens to demand more funds for education and better facilities.

Some 3,000 high school and university students and teachers, also protesting against plans to allow private universities, marched to parliament halting busy afternoon traffic and shutting down most major boulevards.

Holding banners that read ''State education means free education for all'', youths set off flares and chanted anti-government slogans as dozens of riot police blocked off the road leading to the parliament.

''What I want is the right to get educated without having to pay for it,'' 23-year-old student Katia Markaki said. ''I will be here protesting until we win this fight.'' Earlier this year protesters had forced the conservative government to shelve plans to introduce private tertiary education institutions, with months-long rallies that sometimes turned violent.

But the government, which won a second consecutive election in September, has pledged to push forward with its plans to allow private universities, saying it was necessary to increase competitiveness and improve education.

High school students have also staged sit-ins at hundreds of schools across the country to oppose the government's education plans.

Students and teachers say the government has failed to deliver on pledges to gradually increase education spending to about 5 per cent of GDP.

In the 2008 draft budget which will go to parliament next month, about 3.1 per cent of GDP or just under 7 billion euros has been earmarked for education.

It is the second front opening for the newly-elected government which has a slim majority in parliament with 152 deputies in the 300-seat chamber. Unions have also started protests against plans to reform the ailing pension system.


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