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Oct.15th, Belgrade: Protests against new law on education

Oct.15th, Belgrade:
Protest against new Law on Education
and Austerity Policies Intensifies

The following report was sent to the global ISM fb page:

Today, on October 15th, in Belgrade, a protest brought together several thousands of students, from all Serbian universities, accompanied by the worker union representatives, in the fight against the new law on education and austerity measures. The protest was initiated by a number of progressive student organizations, independent of the political opposition and government authorities. Student activities are coordinated through direct-democratic assemblies in colleges. Protests are accompanied by a series of blockades of university buildings that are currently under the control of self-organised students who carry out alternative education and a rich cultural program. Students' actions are constantly sabotaged by the media, the state-instrumentalised official student representatives (SKONUS) and are violently attacked by neo-nazi groups (Srbska akcijahttps, Croatian national front). But for now students successfully resist the attacks through unity and self-organization, and are increasingly supported by a number of left-wing workers' and citizens' organizations and trade unions, because their demands reflect the material interests of the majority of students and of the society as a whole, against the current neoliberal austerity measures, and the overall process of commodification of education and the imposition of discriminatory social and political measures.

Short-term requirements:

1) 6 exam periods;
2) Fifth year to be funded from the budget;
3) Stop the reduction of the budget quota for MA;
4) To let students who enrolled in 2006, to continue to study by the statute from 2006.

Long-term requirements:

1) Completely free education like the one in Germany;
2) Improvement of the quality of education and abandonment of the Bologna education system;
3) Replacement of parliamentary forms of organization in colleges by democratic forms that are inclusive and responsive to majority of students.
4) Suspension of neoliberal government austerity policy.

Some of the slogans used on the protest today were:

Knowledge is not a commodity!
Free education!
Down with the bourgeois gang of thieves!
Students and workers together are strongest!
How much money for a diploma!?
Fascists didn't pass, SKONUS didn't pass, the law will not pass!
Students from all faculties unite!
Everyone to the assemblies, everyone to the protests, everyone to the blockades!
Students, not clients!
Where is no budget, there is trouble!

To explain the short-term demands:

This fall, without much media attention, the Serbian parliament adopted a bill on amendments to the Law on Higher Education. The most important innovation is the reduction of the minimum number of exam periods from 6 to 4. It means that you can try to pass your exam only 4 times during one year. Then there is Article 124 of the law, which states that students enrolled in 2010 and later, are not entitled to the fifth year of the budget. It doesn't matter If you are a "good student" or not, the state won't finance more than 4 years (it's a bit complicated, see below), and the number of available places on the budget is getting lower from year to year, while tuition is growing. Also universities have the right to charge you for many things, though you already have paid tuition fees. For example to register your exam you need to pay from 7 to 30 euros, to enroll for a year you pay from 20 to 50 euros, to transmit an exam to the next year from 100 to 350 euros, and tuition for one year is from 1000 to 3000 euros while average wage is around 390 euros. The official unemployment rate is close to 30 precent (more than 50 precent among the young population).

One academic year carries 60 ECTS. Basic academic studies last 4 years and carry a total of 240 points. Achievement of 48 points is a legal requirement for entry on the next year budget. The requirement of 48 points, which was valid for years, means that students have 12 points to be transmitted in the following year, so when these points are gathered it leaves 48 points for the fifth year. So, if a student has gained the right to enter the 4th year he/she automatically has the fifth year of the budget. The idea of the government was that there is a transition period in which the requirement for a budget increases, and programs are synchronized , so that the generation that entered in 2010 and later can give 60 points per year, which would mean no need for a fifth year of study. The plan never happened. Meanwhile 5 generations enrolled who are not eligible for the fifth year, but have all the aggravating circumstances that have so far existed.

A next protest is scheduled for October 21st.

For updates: Dokle više | Samoorganizovani studentski pokret 2014

Sept. 16th/17th, Jadavpur University: Police Attack Student Movement on Campus - Dozens Arrested and Hospitalized

Sept. 16th/17th, Jadavpur University:
Police Attack Student Movement on Campus - Dozens Arrested and Hospitalized

The protests by students of Jadavpur University (Calcutta, India) as well as other supporters of an independent investigation into a recent case of molestation at the Faculty of Arts took an ugly turn during the night of September 16th when the police and Rapid Action Force (RAF) attacked them, resorting to unprovoked and indiscriminate violence upon all the students present at the sit-in.

The following chronology of events was sent to the global ISM mailing list by a student activist on the ground:

  • 28th August: A female student alleged she was molested by some people on campus during the night of 26th. The vice-chancellor (VC) asked her not to attend college for 15 days and invited her to a meeting to discuss the allegation two days later (Aug.28th). On this day the student movement started demanding a proper investigation into the case. The VC agreed to form a committee to investigate properly, but the committee members asked the person affected about her dress and behavior that night instead. They (two members of committee) even asked her, if she was drunk or not. A typical case of victim blaming.
  • 10th September: In reaction to the procedure the student representative of the committee resigned and a sit-in was arranged to push for an independent investigation on September 10th. The protesters demanded a new committee because it was clear by now that the previous one was a smokescreen.
  • 16th September: The executive council chaired by the VC held a meeting, but they sticked to their decision of not changing the committee.
  • On 17th September, 2am, lights were turned off on campus and large groups of police forces along with goons (allegedly belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)) marched to the university and began to attack the students by beating them. The police foces entered the campus due to written request by the VC. Students were tortured, 40 were admitted to hospital. Two had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, because goons broke flower pots on their heads. 37 students were arrested.
    At 4am students started another sit-in nearby the police station demanding the immediate release of all their friends. Finally the arrested were released on bail. At 3pm, a rally consisting of about 10,000 students from Jadavpur and nearby Calcutta, Presidency University, numerous colleges and organizations without banners rallied and marched for about 5 km.

The movement still going on.

Show your solidarity via hashtag #hokkolorob - #hokkolorob means "shout"/ "protest".

Updates are available on the fb page Students against Campus Violence!

Here are some news reports as well as sources for pictures and videos:

attack on campus

rally against the attack 12 hours later

recordings on facebook: clip1, clip2, clip3, clip4, clip5, clip6, clip7, clip8, clip9

(news) reports: aneyezine.com, dnaindia.com, deccanchronicle.com, timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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":

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