Hundreds and thousands of students are protesting in Albania against what they call “the commercialization of knowledge and of student life”, a series of neoliberal reforms in higher education undertaken by the Socialist Party who governs in Albania since 2013. The protests have been taking place for over one month now.
At the beginning of the movement, students took to the streets to express their revolt. Today, they are boycotting the lessons and organizing alternative classes through autonomous spaces of faculties.
In an interview with Mirela Ruko, an MA student at the University of Tirana (Faculty of Sociology) and activist of the movement “For University”, involved since the very first days of the protest explained to politicalcritique’s reporter Ron Salaj the demands of the students and the government’s response.
Ruko said “We have been waiting for this moment for so long, 28 years. And now this hope is going to change not only the university but the whole of society, bringing forth the courage to demand the denied rights.”
According to the activist, one of the slogans of the protest was: “If there is hope, it lies in the youth”.
Ruko went on to explain “The education system in Albania has been bent by a neoliberal process since 2015; commercialization of knowledge and of student-life. This was the year when the current law in higher education was implemented, and this was the very beginning of the resistance of hundreds of students and professors. The new law doesn’t solve the old problems in the education system, but it worsens them by reaching into the pockets of the students while sharing public money from the government’s budget (which has already been reduced) with private universities.”
Mirela, on behalf of the students said “We were and we continue to be revolted students! Every day more and more students are sinking into poverty, unable to bear the tuition fees and the necessary expenses, which are conditioning their right to education. That’s why even after abrogating the decision of the Ministers’ Council, the protest didn’t stop. The students started to demand free public education.”
Mirela said that there is a need for an overall reform of the whole education system in Albania based on the right to free public education. Reiterating that this process should start from the roots, including all the academic and student body, Ruko noted that the abrogation of the Law on Higher Education, which has been contested for three years now, would open the way for public and qualitative education.
Albania has a high number of youngsters who seek asylum; they leave the country as emigrants or to study abroad.