Another week, another march. This time the protest affected me directly, insofar as the building that houses my afternoon English class had been barricaded by 9am.

This week’s grinding axe chimes with a hot issue back home in Blighty – the creeping privatisation of public services, especially education – and the sentiments manifest in last December’s protests in London echoed yesterday in Bogotá.

Reform to the law regulating higher education in Colombia (Ley 30) will allow profit-seeking, private enterprise to enter the last remaining bastions of public higher education. Public universities are already scarce in Colombia – my paymaster being the most salient example; the rest of the higher education field here is already dominated by private colleges and universities, inaccessible to vast swathes of the population due to costly fees.

The students at the Nacho are, naturally, up in arms about this. Theirs is the biggest and most successful example of the public university system – so successful that many/most say it’s the most prestigious higher education institution in the country. They have much to be proud of and much to defend as a result.

I walked alongside the march from one of its rallying points on the Nacional’s Plaza Che to its destination in the centre of town, Plaza de Bolívar.

It was lively and upbeat for the duration, leaving a trail of scrappy, defiant graffiti in its wake.

The police showed admirable restraint throughout what I saw of the march, despite coming under consistent paint-bomb and occasional missile barrage. The only escalation I saw was on Plaza de Bolívar, when a surge knocked down barriers protecting a gaggle of a dozen riot cops. Their jefe immediately fired off a tear-gas canister to repel the advance, and nothing more came of it. No kettles, FITs or snatch squads in sight here, just level-headed maintenance of a semblance of order. I was impressed.

The rain soon closed in to soak the huddled protesters but did little to dampen the rhetoric. I stayed to listen to a few of the speakers before biking north and home.

Opposition to the reform is strong, and this just one of many planned manifestaciones. Watch this space.

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