There have been ugly scenes in an historic square in Rome as controversial education reforms won final parliamentary approval.
Tourists ran for cover from the Piazza Navona and riot police moved in as rival groups of students clashed. Witnesses said the demonstration was peaceful until right-wingers wielding clubs and chains arrived.
Nearby, students staging a sit-in outside the Senate building, denounced spending cuts they say will hinder their ability to get a good education.
One young woman expressed her anger at politicians.
“They say the youth of today don’t know anything, that they are leaving school earlier,” she said
“But they are preventing us from continuing our studies.”
The text approved by the Senate today, as part of Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini’s reforms, is largely focussed on primary education. The government says it will trim waste and put Italian schools on an equal footing with other European school systems.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accuses the left of manipulating students. He says reforms to the university sector have not yet been finalised. But his words are unlikely to dampen the determination of protesters who took to the streets throughout Italy today. Fearful for their jobs, teachers are angry too and a nationwide strike tomorrow will hit the state school sector.