The demonstration was called by the national students' union, which says Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has cut five billion euros ($6.5 billion) from public education budgets in the past year.Thousands of students and teachers have demonstrated in the Spanish capital Madrid to protest against the government’s budget cuts in the education sector. Carrying flags and banners that read "Our education will not pay your debt," the demonstrators marched towards the education ministry on Thursday to voice their anger at the crisis budget cuts and layoffs in schools and universities, AFP reported. The demonstration was called by the national students' union, which says Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has cut five billion euros ($6.5 billion) from public education budgets in the past year. According to a statement by the union, university fees have been raised by up to two thirds and 80,000 teachers have been laid off.
"They are privatizing the universities and raising fees, cutting research and putting more students in each class," said a university student in the protest rally."The only option I see is to go and work or study abroad," he added. The Spanish government has also been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest. However, the government has remained adamant, saying the austerity measures are needed to carry it through the crisis. Public protests have grown in the country over speculation that the government will seek a Greek-style European bailout to keep its borrowing costs in check. The eurozone's fourth-largest economy must lower its deficit to 4.5 percent in 2013, and 2.8 percent in 2014. Economists, however, say those targets will be difficult to meet amid poor prospects for the country’s economic recovery. Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs. MN/MHB