Students across Italy protest austerity measures

AFP , Friday 12 Oct 2012

Tens of thousands of students protest across Italy against cut in scholarships and university fees in response to the economic crunch

Highschool students shout slogans as they march along the Fori Imperiali avenue during a demonstration against government education cuts, in Rome, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Tens of thousands of school children and students took to the streets of 90 cities across Italy on Friday to protest tax hikes on university fees and a cut in scholarships in the wake of the economic crisis.

Ten thousand young people took part in a march in Rome, according to organisers, forcing traffic to a standstill in the city centre, while others demonstrated in cities from Naples to Milan, Turin, Florence and Bologna.

The protests were sparked by the government's decision to raise taxes on students who complete their university studies late, and cut scholarships -- which critics say will make it impossible for many to go to university at all.

"We've taken to the streets to denounce the fact that Italy is the country at the heart of the EU with the fewest graduates, (and) the highest school costs," said Michele Orezzi, national coordinator of the Universities Union. She said school costs "are constantly rising because of the austerity measures imposed by PM Mario Monti's government."

 Monti came to power in November 2011 to tackle Italy's vast debt amid increasing pressure from the eurozone debt crisis, imposing a series of measures aimed to reign in spending and cut waste. The protests follow widespread demonstrations across Italy last week which ended in clashes with the police which left dozens of people injured.

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