★ ISM - UK
January - February 2014, Rajshahi University:
Struggle against Tuition Fees - Uni shut down!
Since January 16th, 2014 students at Rajshahi University (RU) have been struggling against an increase in tuition fees as well as the introduction of commercial evening courses. Rajshahi is a city with a population of around 700,000 in the north-west of Bangladesh. To resist the increase in fees as well as the evening classes students have been on strike since January 30th. On Sunday, February 2nd, thousands of students were attacked by police as well as members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) - the student wing of the ruling Awami League - while rallying on campus once again. More than 100 students and eight journalists were injured. Following those latest developments the university was shut down for an indefinite period and students had to leave their dorms for the time being.
For more details check out the reports of each day below.
[This page might be updated to inform about any latest developments in the coming days. In case you have updates to share on the situation at RU, then send drop a line at the global ISM mailing list [firstname.lastname@example.org] and it will be added to this page.
February 3rd (Mon)
About 6,000 students of RU had to leave their dormitories on Monday morning after the authorities closed down the university indefinitely. Six cases have been filed accusing some 475 people, 105 of them named, a day after agitating students were attacked on campus.
Many were seen standing helplessly at the Rajshahi bus terminal and railway station. The announcement for closure was made several hours after police and BCL members attacked protesting students. Rony, a student of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, said they were informed of the syndicate's decision [the highest governing body of the university] around 9pm on Sunday. "Most of us do not have any money at the beginning of the month and it was not possible to secure [bus or train] tickets at night," he said.
Coordinator of the protesters, Ayatullah, said the students were leaving the campus in great anger. Many shouted slogans. "We'll resume our protest against attacks on the students and to demand cancellation of the evening classes from the day the university reopens," he told bdnews24.com.
The university administration, police and BCL filed six cases with the Motihar Police Station on charges of attacking a procession, creating unrest on the campus, exploding bombs and obstructing the police.
Police on Sunday detained Sajib Ahmed, a fourth year student of the Department of Finance and Banking, on charges of vandalism. The Proctor said two cars belonging to teachers, some of their residences and several academic buildings had been ransacked on Sunday.
Ayatullah, President of the university Chhatra Union unit and coordinator of the student's movement, feared that they might be implicated in the cases. He told bdnews24.com: “We are demonstrating for the general students. A student organisation has attacked us and now we are being sued again. This is the paradox of the university’s ones-sided policy.”
BCL university unit's Organising Secretaries Shamsuzzaman Emon, Al-Galib and Foysal Ahmed Runu, Joint General Secretaries Mahbubur Rahman Palash and Nasim Ahmed Setu, Environment Affairs Secretary Mustakin Billah and another leader, Sudipta Salam, were seen wielding firearms on the campus during the attacks on the students.
No members of the pro-government BCL were arrested over the past one and a half years despite being often seen openly brandishing firearms and other weapons on the Rajshahi University campus.
School Strike in Solidarity with Refugees
In response to this call to action between 3,500 and 5,000 pupils and supporters gathered in the streets of Hamburg today. Unsurprisingly the demo was not supported by the school board. School authorities even attempted to intimidate pupils by threatening to register all who are missing classes and that everyone who attends the protest needs to present a letter of apology from the parents. On the other hand the education union (GEW) supports the pupils saying that it is a practical lesson in political education.
Many banners and posters with different slogans were displayed (see pictures below) and slogans such as "no border - no nation - stop deportation!" heard.
In the same context also more than 400 pupils and students rallied in Frankfurt/M on the same day in the afternoon. The rally was also supported by the general students' committee of the Goethe University of Frankfurt/M.
the speech bubble says: deportation means torture - deportation means murder
Erich-Kästner school against racism
No one is illegal! Ⓐ
December 4th, 2013
Protests against Tuition Fees
and for Free Education ...
... in Taipei
Around 50 students gathered in front of the Ministry of Education in Taipei to protest increasing tuition fees. The rally was also called by the Anti-Commercialisation of Education Union (反教育商品化聯盟) - Free Education Movement, which was initiated during a meeting at the National Taiwan University following a similar protest in March 2012.
Various speeches were held, among others the severe debt many students are facing was pointed out. Many students in Taiwan - just like in many other parts of the world - are highly indebted. Each year about 400,000 students are forced to take up loans.
In Taiwan twice as many students attend private (technical) universities than public ones. Both charge tuition fees although for private ones they are significantly higher. They can afford to charge high fees because places at public institutions are limited and people need to pass a rigid selection process (usually through test results) before being able to enrol at a public university.
Ironically this makes the public universities elite institutions. Many are afraid that they might feel forced to attend private universities.
For details on the (higher) education system in Taiwan you might find this propaganda brochure from the Ministry of Education to be useful.
... in Bremen
August 2013 - Chicago:
Protests against Privatization of Schools
Since Monday, August 5th, hundreds of people turned up at Palmer House in Chicago to protest against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which held its annual meeting there between August 7th and 9th.
ALEC might sound to some like a governmental institution, but it is actually more like a lobbying organisation.
Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations.
Among others ALEC propagates various policies aimed at an increased commercialization of education. It also regularly generates rankings of school performances. As many of you probably know rankings are popular instruments to encourage a competition for resources among educational institutions.
According to The Guardian "139 Alec bills [were] introduced and 31 enacted this year. The legislation focused on redirecting taxpayer money from public schools to for-profit private schools.".
This video gives a pretty good overview of the current state of the ongoing struggle against the increasing privatization of schools in Chicago:
The focus of ALEC's annual meeting was not only on education. Also the drafting of new bills with its Environmental Agriculture Task Force on behalf of its members were discussed.
During the rally on August 8th police rushed into the crowd and arrested a few people while throwing them to the ground for no apparent reason:
Also at protest actions during the previous days many protesters were arrested.
Last but not least it is vital to point out that the root of the problem is not ALEC or "corporate greed" (as proclaimed by some of the protesters), but the capitalist system, which inevitably is based on competition and the drive to generate profits. The circumstance that capital gets organized in institutions like ALEC is a logical consequence of the predominant economic system.
Also in other parts of the world similar institutions already exist or take shape. In Germany for example there is the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), which presents itself as a non-partisan body of experts made up of the Bertelmann Foundation (Bertelsmann being a mass media corporation) as well as the German Rectors' Conference. One of the favorite activities of the CHE is - just like ALEC - to annually publish rankings of faculties and universities and from time to time propagate the re-introduction of tuition fees. Not surprisingly institutions like the CHE and ALEC also have a significant impact on how the purposes of an "education" system are perceived.
June 13th: Riot Police Raids University
following Mass-Demonstrations across Chile
Like in many other parts of the world also in Chile the struggle against the increasing commercialisation of education and for free emancipatory education continues. More than 100,000 students, teachers and parents took to the streets of Santiago and other cities for another in a long series of protests calling for a radical shakeup of the educational system.
Besides the Confech university students confederation also high school student associations CONES and ACES, the Student Federation of Private Universities (MESUP), a parents’ group and a group representing teachers across Chile were involved in the protests that day. Riot police used batons, water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd towards the end of the rally in Santiago, which resulted in dozens suffering serious injuries and hundreds being arrested.
Following the march, Carabineros, Chile’s uniformed police, violently entered into the central campus of Universidad de Chile which — alongside 25 other university buildings — has been occupied by students as part of the struggle. The police intrusion even drew fierce condemnation from university chancellor Víctor Pérez.
More than 20 students were injured and 20 others arrested during this attack alone. Nonetheless students remained in control of the premises, according to activists on the ground.
Protesters also clashed with riot police in Valparaíso and Concepción, amongst others. Arrests across the country totalled up to 360, according to involved students on the ground.
“They say they want to move forward on getting business out of education, but they allow the continued advance of a Superintendency of Higher Education that legitimizes profit instead of ending it,” Vela Diego, president of the student federation at Catholic University, said of the administration.
Among others people resist tuition fees and the fact that private institutions are subsidised by the state even as public schools in poor areas struggle.
Chile’s public schools and universities were neglected during the 1973-1990 rule of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Private schools mushroomed under the military regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet in the 70s and 80s. The trend continued after democracy was restored, also during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.
Students and parents want the elimination of school fees, an end to for-profit universities and a reduction in the high cost of college, which forces many to take on large debts.