A brief outline of the Albanian student protests to date:
by - Geralda Cela

As the student protests enter their 11th day today, there seems to be no sign them stopping –  thousands of more citizens, mainly students, are rallying in support of their peers in Triana. Cities such as Elbasan, Shkodra, Korca (to name a few) are seeing citizens unite in support of the student calls. But just why are the students protesting? And what do they want? Here we take a look back at the events which have led up to this point. 

What started the protests?

(Suprise surprise its root cause is political)

Back in 2013, Prime minister of Albania, Edi Rama had promised to put 5% of the GDP toward Education, but the spending has never actually reached above 3%.

This lack of support from the state, thanks to Rama’s broken promises means that Universities have had to find other ways of funding itself. And so in 2015, a new ‘Law of Education was introduced’.

Article 3 of this law gave greater freedom to universities in all areas of finance, budget and staff, which undoubtedly has lead to mass corruption both financially and academically.

And it finally came to a head in December, when students finally found out about article 4 of Decision no.288 – which was slyly passed by the council of ministers this May. Article 4 states that students must pay more if they are re-taking exams. This decision was NOT communicated with students whatsoever, and there was NO media mention of it.  So some remained completely unaware of the article.

What do the students want?

Since the 100 students from the faculty of Architecture in Tirana started protesting on December 5th, the students demanded 4 things, stating clearly that they will not give up until all 4 demands are met:

The students have turned down dialogue with the government and abstained from making this a political matter of the parties which would take away from the basic needs that they are demanding. But Rama doesn’t seem to be listening and is determined to make this political by blaming the opposition for the students’ rejection for dialogue. This is not only completely missing the point of the student’s demands but it also exposes how politically driven he is. 

The crowds of supporters in recent days have only grown in concentration and support – with thousands accumulating outside the Ministry of Education and Parliment. These are the biggest protest that has occurred in Albania since Student protest of 1990 which contributed to the fall of communism.

Although this widespread support for protestors in their own country, there seems to be no mention from the EU and US embassy. Something which the Albanian National Youth Network is now questioning in this press report given on the 9th day of the protest.

We publicly urge the USA and the EU to publicly come in support of the student’s demands and use their communication channels and the positive influence that they exercise in Albania to push the Albanian Government to take urgent measures to address the students’ demands.

For the last nine days, students of public universities across the country are protesting to seek quality education, better living conditions at students’ residences and better mechanisms to fight corruption in high public education of Albania. Meanwhile, the Government, on their side, even though has expressed its support for students, has not yet taken any actions to solve the most urgent issues that the students have raised in their eight-point petition.

Young people in Albania make up to 25% of the population. More than 26% of them are unemployed. Such a high level of unemployment consequently makes most of the young people vulnerable to asylum and illegal migration. Albania has one of the largest numbers of asylum seekers in EU of any European country. According to GALLUP’s latest survey, at least 79% of young people want to leave Albania! This alarming situation affects almost all the Western Balkan countries but above all the European Union countries, as host countries.”

These protests give me a great hope for our generation and the future of the country. And even though our generation has been divided across the world through immigration, we still have a strong diaspora community and are in total support of student demands toward the government. We wish we were there protesting with you.  

 

All photography: Eva Cupi