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Albania: Report on the Struggle against neoliberal Reforms of Universities

Report on the Struggle against neoliberal Reforms of Universities in Albania

The following report was sent to the global ISM fb page on behalf of 'Per Universitetin' (translated: 'for the university'), an education movement in Albania.

First off, some information on who we are.
Per Universitetin is a movement composed of students, professors and other people who are eager and devoted to work for a free and emancipatory higher education. Our mission is to protect and to empower public education in Albania. We have seen that public universities are being damaged by the policies that intend to turn the university into a corportate entity and the student into a client. Differently from many youth groups in our country we are totally free and independent as we have not accepted funding from many actors, that is why till now we have operated on a fully volunteer basis.
There is a group of organizers who is responsible for organizing the activities of the movement, planning the strategy, coordinating the work with other agents of society (like workers, miners ect). The organizer group is composed mostly of students, but there are also several professors and some people from outside the university involved.

During the last three years we have organized student meetings, manifestations and protests against several reforms due to take place in higher education in Albania. Recently we held a student public meeting in front of the prime minister office.

We are protesting against new neo-liberal reforms, concretely trying to ...

  1. cut down the public funds for public universities in Albania,
  2. make the public funds available for private universities (which are completely uncontrolled),
  3. establish an administrative board in each university, which will be responsible for the policy of the university, the budget ect.

I am sending you some of the photos from our last manifestation (June 2, 2014) in front of the prime minister office. We would like to make them public so students in other countries can understand that the phenomenon of privatization of public universities is an international one.

So far we haven't experienced any form of violent repression, but I think that in the future there will be some efforts to damage our activities (we have experienced that 2 years ago during our activities with another group, protesting for the same reasons). Our activities are mostly concentrated in the capital (Tirana), but our members and activists come from all the cities in the country. Starting from October (the beginning of the new academic year) we will undertake some campaings in order to create small groups in other cities and continue with our struggle.

We hope we can create a good relationship with the international student movement.

Greetings from Albania.
Alban - representativ of the movement

July 7th: Day of Action against Militarism ahead of Elections in Indonesia

July 7th, Indonesia:
Day of Action against Militarism

The following report was sent in by the student group PEMBEBASAN to inform about the day of action.

On 7th of July 2014, we held actions to express our refusal of the return of the military regime. We spread awareness, that the military regime could be a nightmare for democracy. In Indonesia, tomorrow on 9th of July there will be presidential elections. Prabowo Subianto, one of the presidential candidates, was a former general who led the army special forces (KOPASSUS).

In 1998, Prabowo Subianto kidnapped dozens of activists and 13 activists are still missing until now. Prabowo also ordered his troops to kill and imprison activists ahead of the collapse of the military dictatorship, which existed for 32 years. The majority of victims were Chinese. They were raped and brutally murdered. Prabowo's policies were very racist.

Prabowo escaped from a human rights court because the bourgeois elite did not have the courage to catch him. Now, Prabowo wants to be president, collaborating with political parties which were the main supporters of the military dictatorial regime from 1966 to 1998. Prabowo, as a former general and violator of human rights, he was also a very wealthy businessman. Other presidential candidates, in our opinion, did not dare to oppose the rise of the military power. Among those in power, there are also general human rights violators. The two presidential candidates follow capitalist policies. So, we, from the Center of Student Struggle for National Liberation (PEMBEBASAN), reject the return of the military forces with demonstrations and the distribution of fliers. Actions took place some different provinces, Middle of Sulawesi (Palu), Yogyakarta, East Java (Mojokerto) and Jakarta.

June 25: "Educational Strike" across Germany

June 25:
"Educational Strike"
by (School) Students across Germany

A network of (school) students, the teachers' union (on the regional and local level) as well as trainees arranged rallies as well as other protest activities in different cities across Germany on Wednesday, June 25th. Basically their anger is directed against three tendencies - all of which can also be observed in many other parts of the world:

  • the chronically underfunded public education system and all its negative implications;
  • the basic selection processes (e.g. through grading systems, entry tests, financial burdens), which make up an essential part of the predominant educational system;
  • undemocratic structures and increasingly authoritarian "top-down" management approaches in schools and universities.

Other focuses were also the struggle against an atmosphere of increasing competition and pressure to perform as well as precarious working conditions, such as "hire-and-fire" practices at educational institutions. In recent years a reform in some federal states which cut the years until graduation for A levels by one year gave the pressure to perform for school students an additional boost. Also the increasing lack of affordable living space is a significant problem.
In the end the call to action summarizes that the struggle is for "a democratic, inclusive, civil (i.e. no research for military purposes) and critical educational landscape".

The first "Bildungsstreik" (translated: "Educational Strike") took place in 2009. The common label "Bildungsstreik" connects groups and alliances on the national level, which arrange their own activities autonomously on the local level.
Although this helps to get more people engaged, in the end it also blurs the picture on what the movement is all about. On one hand there are some who focus on revolutionary ideas, such as the abolition of grading systems and selection mechanisms, which helps to make the boundaries as well as oppressive character of the predominant system visible. On the other hand unions and groups (probably the vast majority of them) rather focus on budget cuts, class sizes, "quality of education" and some even argue that "they" are the future elite and therefore the state should have an interest to invest in their human capital; after all it's in the interest of "the nation". Consequently a clash of different analysis and therefore different targets (social and economic system vs. personalized targets, like an "evil" government, university management or other authorities) of the protest activities can be observed.

These tendencies are probably nothing new in many parts of the world with a variety of civil society. But radical criticisms and approaches to predominant social conditions are seemingly neglected in the public discourse, especially when they are transported together with an analysis, which is based on personalized targets - usually propagated by opposition parties, unions and parts of civil society. This raises the question how discussions based on radical - and therefore structural - analyses of problems that we all experience within the educational system can be encouraged more effectively.

on twitter: @bildungsstreik | #bildungsstreik14

Here is an attempt to give an overview of the activities related to the latest "Bildungsstreik":

Netherlands: Students protest new loan system

June 2014, The Netherlands:
Students protest new Loan System

The following message was left on the wall of the global ISM facebook page:

Update from The Netherlands:
The government is planning to introduce a loan system for bachelor and master students starting next year. This will replace the study financing system which is in place now, that provides students with a (low) study grant. Due to the loan system, many young adults will start their lives out with a giant debt attached to their names. According to 'official' sources the average loan will be approximately 30.000 euro's per student and they will be allowed to pay it off in 35 years.
Our fear is that this 'study mortgage' (and form of double taxation) will endanger access to higher education. Especially for kids from poor families. The government has promised to reinvest their savings from this budget cut in higher education, but has refused to tell us in what way and when. Many students are already choosing for studies that seem to give them a better chance on the labor market, flooding class rooms at law and business faculties, and leaving small language and cultural studies to wither away and die. The educational system should not be subjected to market forces! We need to stop this nonsense before it's too late.

Students, ex-students, school going children and parents will be protesting this loan system on Friday June 20th in Groningen and Tuesday June 24th in Utrecht. Join us if you can!

 

source: global ISM fb page

Press Release from Sri Lanka: 17 Student Activists Remanded until May 19th

The following press release was sent to the global ISM mailing list by the Inter University Students' Federation (IUSF) in Sri Lanka on May 17th.

May 16th, Sri Lanka:
17 Student Activists Remanded until 19th

Although the Government of Sri Lanka has failed to give solutions to the cut in the Allied Health Sciences’ degree and the resistance action of Rajarata students against the repressive university administration, it has launched a campaign of repression against the student activists fighting for education rights.

The latest step by the police in this direction is following students in civil attire and abducting and illegally detaining them. Police has conducted two such illegal abductions. In both these abductions they have produced fake warrants against the students. These abductions happened when the students were leaving after a protest action held in front of the University Grants Commission yesterday (16th) afternoon.

The first abduction happened at about 3.45 in the evening in front of the Post Office in Town Hall. Police officers in civil attire have followed 4 students, ambushed them and a three wheeler and a jeep that arrived suddenly have abducted them. Then they were illegally detained at the Kirulapona Police Station.

Second abduction happened at about 5.35 in the evening. Students have got into a bus to go to Colombo Fort and again police officers in civil attire had got into the bus had attempted to arrest a student under a warrant issued in the name of a different person. Students had protested the illegal arrest of the fellow student and the police had arbitrarily ordered the driver to take the bus along with the 13 students to Slave Island Police Station. When the bus arrived at the Police Station the police have inhumanly attacked the students with batons and poles right in front of the Police Station. As of now, students who were injured were not even hospitalized.

Students were presented in front of the Fort Magistrate at his residence in Mount Lavinia at about 10.30 in the night and the Magistrate had ordered them to be remanded until 19th. Allied Health Science Students activists of Universities of Ruhuna and Peradeniya are thus being illegally detained and Students Council President of University of Peradeniya, Dimuthu Gunasekere is also among the illegally detained.

Abducting and illegally detaining students without warrants and assaulting them is a grave violation of the fundamental rights of the student activists. We categorically condemn this political witch hunt of student activists by the police in collusion with the courts, especially in the context of the Higher Education Minister S.B.Dissanayake’s open threat towards IUSF activists and their families. We invite the people of this country to organize and rally to protect educational, political and fundamental rights of the students.

contact: media.iusfsl@gmail.com | +94 777 357 124

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