We fully support the ongoing struggle of our fellow organisation Per Universitetin and the students in Tirana against the commodification of higher education!
While the cost of living in dorms continues to rise, despite living standards dropping for many students, the Albanian government made a decision on October 15th to raise tuition fees in public universities. In response, students in Tirana organized a sit-in at the entrance of the Polytechnic University, blocking the main doors and chanting “We are students, not consumers!” The student movement Per Universitetin (“for university”) is providing educational material in an attempt to unify students of all faculties and backgrounds. They are also working hard to contact fellow organisations around the world, gaining our support in raising awareness of the current student situation, as well as attempting to change it.
This outburst, having taken place on October 27th, is only the most recent of direct actions taken by students in response to worsening conditions and government oppression. Since the proposed reforms of the center-right Democratic party in April 2012, the students of Albania have been constantly resisting neoliberal higher-education reforms aimed at privatizing and restricting access to university education. Despite a nominal change in government during the last elections, the currently ruling “Socialist” party is implementing the very same reforms of its predecessor. The most recent increase in tuition fees is only a shock-therapy, paving the way for deeper structural reforms, such as redirecting public revenue into private universities.
Per Universitetin has been playing an important role in these actions, providing students with experience, political articulation and a wider perspective gained from past struggles, as well as reaching out to many students in Albania and elsewhere. Like many of us, they have had to learn two valuable lessons, the hard way. Firstly, that global capital has a political agenda behind privatization and commercialization of higher education, one that it will continue to pursue – in hopes of taking advantage of the current crisis and creating new conditions for accumulation – regardless of which technocratic government claims political power. And secondly, that the only way to effectively fight against this offensive is through organized international struggle.
This is all the more important, because education is only one particular field of society undergoing such changes. As students and members of a (future) unemployed or underemployed labor force, there is no reason for us to limit our political campaigns to university-related problems. The problems and oppression we are dealing with are not just a matter of technocratic “crisis-management”, but a radical transformation of society at large to fit the needs and interests of profit rather than people. It is immensely important to resist exploitation and growing social inequality in all spheres of society, in all countries of the world. If at any point in the future we wish to transform society for the better, we will have to be well organized and unified from start to finish.
Iskra and the Slovenian students wish the students of Albania and our comrades in Per Universitetin a successful protest, which will hopefully result in making higher education a possibility for every person in Albania.
One world, one struggle!