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Students protest against changes in higher education

02 December 2010 / 11:12:44  GRReporter
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Students protested on Omonia Square against the new draft law on education and again demanded free education for all. Students rebelled against the new expected increases in the bus tickets prices and the elimination of their student cards for cheap traveling. Members of school and student organizations spoke at the rally, but also representatives of the union of parents. The demonstration went to Sintagma Square later and the traffic in central Athens stopped for several hours.

"The protest involved student unions and students from several schools of Athens. Our main demand is students and pupils to go to public schools free of charge, i.e. those who want to study at a university not to be obliged to invest a euro from their pockets. But it is impossible under the Memorandum, which will last until 2025, and after the recent reforms in education. Children who come from poor families will not be able to study at university. The latest under the new draft law is that tickets reductions for students’ transportation are cancelled and ticket prices are increased to euro and a half. This doubles the amount for transportation and each student has to pay 3 euros to get to the university and then back home," said for Dimitris Vitalis – a student in engineering at the Polytechnic University and member of the executive committee of the front of students struggle.

"We pay for the textbooks and they are ready to introduce tuition fees. There are books we receive for free but they stopped handing out expensive books in 2005 and copying notes began to spread. The situation is tragic especially in semi-higher faculties where each student has to pay about 300 euros per month to copy the notes. Higher schools can no longer afford to give free books after their budgets cuts," said the engineering student who is also one of the organizers of the rally.

According to Dimtris Vitalis, one of the reasons for the students protest is that private companies enter universities to fund research. Students fear, in his opinion, that "soon universities will be assessed according to the market needs of their existence. State funding is reduced and under the new bill councils of academics and businessmen should be formed the aim of which will be to find sponsors. There are examples already – the manager of the Agrino Company – one of the largest food companies in Greece – is member of the board of the University of Western Macedonia. 176 companies have entered the Polytechnic University of Athens that fund specific researches and buy cheap the results while the university is trying to survive with the money the companies pay. But there are universities like Pandio of social sciences and no company will be interested to fund them, which means that their existence is threatened. They will have to decrease the number of students to lower the cost of education and now you will have to have money to be able to enter the university and to cover the costs for private lessons and school aids subsequently. The average cost per year for a student in architecture to buy school aids is 6000 euros. For a poorer family, for which it was difficult to cover the costs, things will now be impossible."

The representative of the Union of Students Alekos Elevteriou said "we will not bargain about our rights." The union of parents in the face of their representative Vassilis Stoyas joined the protest and Mr. Stoyas said the main request is for a modern school for 12 years of education and urged all to join the general strike on 15 December declared by the Communist Party.

Experts say changes in higher education are imperative to raise the level of education in universities and make them adequate to the real requirements of the labour market. The main purpose of government is to decentralize their management through the establishment of trustees at each university which will include not only teachers but also eminent personalities.


Tags: StudentsPupilsHigher educationReformTransportTextbooks
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