Albanian universities seized by student protests

AFP . Tirana | Update:

A high school student speaks in a loud hailer as he leads a demonstration march from place Stalingrad to place de la Republique in Paris, on 7 December, 2018 to protest against the different education reforms including the overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements. Photo: AFPThousands of Albanian students rallied on Friday for a fourth day of protests demanding lower tuition fees, a hike in the national education budget and improved campus facilities.

The biggest demonstration was held in the capital Tirana, with other smaller protests gripping universities in the cities of Korca, Elbasan and Durres.

Tuition in Albania's public universities ranges from 160 to 2,560 euros annually -- significant sums in a poor country where the average monthly salary is around 350 euros.

The student anguish was stoked by a recent government decision to charge extra fees for re-taking exams.

After several days of protests the government announced it would rescind the fees.

But that did not stop students from gathering again Friday, with protesters chanting "A youth who does not protest is a dead youth" outside the Ministry of Education in Tirana.

"We are students, not customers", they shouted.

"We are the future of Albania, the authorities must listen to us, we want tuition fees to be reduced," Florian Kola, a sociology student, told AFP.

Earlier in the week Prime Minister Edi Rama angered students by writing on Facebook that taxpayers were footing the bill for those who missed their first exams.

But on Thursday he tried to highlight investment in education posting a video showing a 18.8 million euro university campus project that will be funded with help from Germany.

"It's a project that will become a reality," he wrote.

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