U P D A T E
A presentation summarizing the protests on Nov.5th is available for download now.
November 5th (the international day of action) is over and many of you probably want to know now: "Where there really student protests around the world?"
YES, there were.
I didn't receive reports from some groups yet (Spain, Israel, Greece, the Philippines,...). But as you can see in the news section and inside the forum, some activists posted their summaries already.
Please help to spread the reports of protests on your homepage(s) or by forwarding them to mailing lists, since the media around the world pretty much ignored this day of action (despite sending press releases). Except for the media in Croatia, all the others mainly focussed on the national agenda. The Guardian mentioned the international day of action in one sentence below a picture [from Croatia] http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/nov/05/protest-tuition-fees) and wrote that the European Students' Union called for the protests. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/nov/04/student-fees-protest). Which they didn't.
If you have any links to media reports mentioning the international perspective of the protests on Nov.5th, then please post them in the forum or just let me know.
Let's begin with a summary of protests from around the world:
Message from Liberia:
The International Day against the Commercialization of Education was a sucess story in Liberia espeacially the first of its kind. More than 250 youth/students and members of civil society attended the protest which was hosted on the Bushrod Island, Monrovia.
The protest was characterized by drama, anti-educational songs, political speeches/messages from students, schools administrators, civil society organizations and the Execuitve Director of YOCADS Alphonso K. Weah. For his part, the Executive Director of YOCADS encouraged the students to be proactive in the advocacy against the commercialization in any form or manner. He further said that, students are not alone because the International Day of Action against the Commercialization of education is being observe mostly by students in at least 20 countries including Liberia.
Participants of the protest request that, considering the slogan of the event that says "One World - One Struggle, Education is NOT For Sale", awareness against the commercialization should be a continuous process which they believe will stop acts against the less fortunate ones around the world.
Activists in Germany called activists in Liberia during the protests, but unfortunately the line was cut in the middle of the call.
A report from Croatia:
In spite of bad weather, around 1.500 Croatian students protested for free university education in Zagreb. Protests also took place in the town of Pula where approximately 500 students gathered. In Zagreb, the protest began at the Faculty of philosophy. From there the protesters went together towards the center of the town. The banners featured were: "One world – One struggle, Education is not for Sale"; "EUtanasia of education"; "You have nothing to lose except tuition fees!"; "Profit =/= progress, privatization = robbery"; "Knowledge is not a comodity"; "neoliberalism out of the university"; "money for education, not for war" etc. The next stop was the museum of Mimara were the students of the Faculty of philosophy, which were the majority, met other students. There chanting began, a few ad hoc slogans were coined, and the president of one of Croatian labour unions spoke supporting our claims. The demands were: free education for all (today, almost 60% of students pay their own fees) and more finance for universities. The demands were directed to the government of Croatia and Croatian parliament. The protest was peaceful and with no incidents but very noisy - there were lots of slogans, singing and shouting. Everybody agrees that the atmosphere of the protest was very nice indeed. The slogan most often chanted was, of course: "free education". The next stop was the house of the rectorate of Zagreb. There, one of the student leaders and organizers of the protest spoke demanding universal free education (including postgraduate studies) followed by loud cheering of the participants. The names of all other countries where the protests were organized were mentioned and greeted. After that students went to the Upper Town to the St. Catherine's Square where the main rally was to be held. The line of students chanting through the city was really impressive. The St. Catherine's Square was chosen because it is very close to the St. Mark's Square where the Croatian Government building is, which is forbidden for protests (though not for George Bush when he was in town recently). There, one of the other organizers spoke and the protest was over with a short concert by drummers and a rap singer. All in all, the protest went on for approximately three hours. This is not the end of the actions of Croatian students in their fight against neoliberalism at the university. The protest was judged by all to be very successful, the students were all very satisfied and it was covered very well by the media (including the main news of the national TV-station). The biggest accomplishment of all was probably the fact that the possibility of free university education is now back in the public discourse. Up till recently it was not even mentioned as a real possibility. Now it is back with vengeance.
In various cities across Germany students were protesting as part of the "International Day of Action against the Commercialization of Education".
Two demonstrations took place. One in Mannheim with about 600 participants, and another one in Düsseldorf with 300 demonstrators.
In Marburg students arranged a RECLAIM party with about 250 people. After partying for two hours hundreds of students spontaneously occupied streets and went through the city armed with banners, fire crackers and electro-music. (pictures and videos still coming up)
In Heidelberg students held a rally at the city centre and displayed a huge banner saying "Kein Ausverkauf der Bildung" (No sellout of Education) at the castle, visible from most parts of Heidelberg.
In Hamburg a couple of students staged a sit-in at the office of the local Green party for a few hours. The Green party broke its promise to ban tuition fees when elected.
The students called out to Liberia, Düsseldorf and Colombia to show some solidarity to other groups struggeling. After 3 hours and endless discussions, a delegation of the general meeting of the faculty of Pedagogics dropped by to show their support. They decided together, that they managed to make their point for the day and left the building.
In Frankfurt/M various smaller groups joined activists around the world with creative actions, that aimed to spread awareness regarding the increasing commercialization in universities. A stand was set-up playing music, holding speeches and giving away leaflets and flyers. Furthermore an "Unspam your Campus" action was conducted: any sort of commercial advertising was removed from two campuses.
More info and pictures: de.IndyMedia.Org (in German)
A report from Bangladesh:
In Bangladesh the Bangladesh Students' Union (BSU) joined the international day of action agaist the commercialisation of education in Dhaka university campus.
We organised a photography and cartoon display showing the local and international student movements from 11 am to 7.00 pm (Dhaka time).
We published a newsletter in Bengali where we wrote about the worldwide student movement, some local protests and why we are joined the day of action.
We arranged a documentary film show where we displayed the videos of different student movements, message of soliderity from croatia and the the film `SURPLUS' (7pm-Dhaka).
Teachers and students of different public and private universities joined with us and gave speech against commercialisation of education.
Hundreds of general students joined with us and raised their voice against commercialistion of education.
Our country is in a state of emergency, so unfortunetly we couldn't arrange a rally.
Thousands of students in various provinces took to the streets protesting against top-up fees and tuition fees in general.
Calling on Premier Dalton McGuinty to drop tuition fees, students took part in rallies in Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Mississauga, London, Guelph, Peterborough, Hamilton, Scarborough, Kingston and Windsor in Canada's biggest province of Ontario.
In Toronto two groups specifically called out for free education, the rest which is pretty much CFS called for the reduction of tuition fees or tuition freeze from being increased which they called the "drop fees" campaign. The two groups calling for free education were from the University of Toronto: Committee for Just Education (CJE) and the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS).
U.S. of A.
Click on "Rally for Change in Education" to view the event in Kentucky Univerisity: wTVg.Com
The nationwide progressive student organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) launched a national Week of Education and outreach on Nov.5th, building up to a national Day of Demands on November 14th.
For more info: StudentsForADemocraticSociety.Org
Activists in Austria gathered at the stock exchange in Vienna protesting against the chronically underfinanced education system and the many billions of euros currently spent on banks. (pictures coming soon)
For more info: Messe.at (in German)
At the Universidad de Buenos Aires, in the Engineering Faculty, activists arranged an "artistic protest". An actor and an actress interpreted the commercialization of education. It took the attention of many people. Then 4 videos about the commercialization process in Spain, Italy and Argenitna was projected, showing that the tendency is very similar in different parts of the world. Furthermore "The Movimiento por Económicas - MxE" organized a conference involving 2 teachers (part of the Teacher's workers organization syndicate) and around 50 studentes, against the commercialization of education.
More Info (in Spanish): EPAfiuba.Com.Ar
University students across England staged local protests against the top-up fee system of student finance.
The action comes ahead of a government review of tuition fees, which is expected some time next year.
The action saw students stage a range of protests, from rallies to releasing helium balloons and from campaign buses to creating a fictitious wall or mountain of debt.
In the North East, students hung a banner from the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead, spelling out the average student debt there - £25k.
President of Durham Students Union Andy Welch said students were angry about the situation.
A smaller act of protest took place in Manchester directly linked to the international day of action.
Manchester students from the Reclaim the Uni group held a demonstration against University library closures and in solidarity with the current education movement against the budget cuts in Italy.
In Sofia activists gathered as part of the "International Day of Action against the Commercialization of Education" and armed with a banner and flyers visited various seminars during the day informing students about the day of action. The action was organized by "Priziv za obrazovanie" together with some activists from Indymedia Bulgaria.
Activists gathered at around 8am in the centre of the city and spent the day distributing info (talking with students, giving away leaflets and so on) at various universities in Sofia.
Most of the students were a bit shocked, nevertheless most were really positive about the idea that education should be free.
The idea was to inform the students about the current situation, as well as attempt to connect the domestic level with the international one.
The official student union seems to be totally co-opted and working together with those in power. The only organized students group that is radically against fees, commercialization of the education system and so on is "Priziv za obrazovanie". It constists of both pupils and university students and it has been around for about a year now. People seem serious, nevertheless it is tough for them in the general context of strong apathia, lack of belief of the possibility of alteration of the decisions of those in power, rise of conservative ideologies and so on.
Up to 500 students joined a rock concert in Belgrade where two bands were playing and four students speaking. The concert was especially organized within five days to express their protest as part of the international day of action.
The event was such a success, that the activists are now considering to set-up a new student organization focussing to struggle against the commercialization of education in Serbia.
In various cities across Turkey groups protested against the commercialization and privatization of education, as well as the oppression of the student movement and High Board of Education. In Istanbul about 500 students, in Izmir, Diyarbakir and Ankara 300 students each and in other cities 50 to 150 students joined the protests. The protest took place on November 6th. Due to internal policies it was not possible to have the protests a day earlier.
On one banner (in yellow) the slogan "Education is NOT for Sale!" was displayed in Turkish.
The protests went peacefully, but thousands of police forces were deployed, especially in Ankara, which unsuccessfully tried to prevent the demonstration there.
Report from the American University of Cairo:
Students at the American University in Cairo organized on November 5th to demand a few things from their administration. Hundreds of students attended the rally, wearing red armbands while signing a petition and writing their grievances on a sheet. The fall semester of 2008 was this university's move from their old campus in downtown Cairo to a newly constructed one in the city's expanding suburbs. Literally out in the undeveloped desert, the campus was unfinished and unfit for teaching when the semester started. A ten percent tuition increase, a corporate monopoly on food outlets, coupled with the pre-emptive move outraged students to organize and demand transparency from the university. A student forum was organized the following week, November 10th, where the administration addressed the student concerns. The students criticized the corporate agenda of the university and voiced their concerns regarding the use of consultants changing the education without a student or faculty voice. The administration only ended the meeting, never addressing the students demands to stop tuition increases. AUC's students are now involving the faculty as much as possible to their cause.
The "International Day of Action against the Commercialization of Education" was well observed in Sierra Leone, West Africa by the National Youth Coalition Student Assembly (NYCSA) in which stakeholders and youth groups were drawn from different angles to chart a way forward on student activities.
A so-called "school tour sensitization" was arranged, as well as a seminar in Freetown on the theme "Bridging gap between disabled and non-disabled students/pupils" and discussing the international day of action.
A few activists in Skopje arranged a public seminar to discuss the commercialization of education with some prominent professors and a group of students. They also agreed to arrange protests in the near future.
Report from Amsterdam:
To our knowledge Amsterdam was the only city in the Netherlands were there was attention paid to the International Day against the Commercialization of Education. It made different groups concerned with student struggles and the quality and affordability of education come together and make a stand against the commercialization at the University of Amsterdam and the education system in general. Groups involved were the Universitairy Activists and the temporary coalition platform of the Student Councils and the Amsterdam Student Union. They came together to protest against higher tuition fees for extra-curriculum subjects. They joined the Univerisitairy Activists on the International Day against the Commercialization of Education. On the day itself a banner was hung in a hall of the main building of the University of Amsterdam and around 500 flyers were spread amongst the interested students of the university.
Student activists in Angers kicked off a petition in support of struggling students in Italy and gathered hundreds of signatures on Nov.5th alone. Furthermore smaller acts of protest were arranged on campus and a short video (unfortunately in a bad quality using a mobile phone) delivering greetings of solidarity was made: http://www.archive.org/details/Francenov.5thvideoGreetings
Since it might be difficult to understand everything when watching it for the first time, I am posting the text spoken here:
"We, french students, support the international student movement and the struggle for free and emancipating education. We want to promote a true policy for education in Europe. Let's unite together!"
FEE Dublin Report:
Free Education for Everyone (FEE) hosted a public meeting in University College Dublin (UCD) on Thursday, November 6th to mark the "International Day of Action against the Commercialisation of Education".
Over forty students and workers in the college turned up to hear Gregor Kerr, a primary school teacher and a member of the teacher's trade union INTO, speak on the government's education cuts and the commercialisation of education and Dan O'Neill, vice president of the UCD Students Union, on the proposed reintroduction of third level fees. FEE will be organising a student bloc at the teacher's national demo against the education cuts on Saturday, December 6th in Dublin City Centre.
On Wednesday, November 12th, FEE organised a 100 strong demonstration against the visit of Fianna Fail TD and Minister of State Conor Lenihan to campus. He pulled out at the last minute due to "security concerns". Three weeks ago, students had blockaded his brother, also a Fianna Fail TD, from attending a business talk on campus. In the last month, two other members of government have pulled out from visiting the college due to student pressure.
FEE are in the process of establishing branches in colleges in Galway, Cork, Maynooth, Trinity and Limerick.