- education - Italy - Silvio Berlusconi
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Rome Thursday in protest at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's multi-billion education cuts.
Demonstrators started gathering in the capital at around 0830 GMT to unveil a banner which read: "Everyone united together for schools."
They were joined by Walter Vetroni, the leader of the left-wing Democratic Party, and former anti-corruption magistrate Antonio di Pietro, the head of the smaller Italy of Values party.
Berlusconi put forward a new state budget in August that aimed to save more than nine billion euros (11.6 billion dollars) in education spending and cut 130,000 jobs in primary schools.
His proposals were approved Wednesday following a vote in the Senate, Italy's upper house of parliament.
Domenico Pantaleo, an official from the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) union, said the changes would "destroy" Italy's public education system.
"These are not reforms, these are just budgetary cuts. The government is destroying public schools and replacing them with a private system. We're not going to discuss it and we will go ahead with the protests," he said.
Unions called for Thursday's general strike to be observed in all Italian schools. Separate protests are expected to take place in other major cities across the country.