Emboldened Albanian Students Eye Wider Change

Some student activists, however, say they will not rest, seeing in the demand for change in education a thirst for broader societal change in Albania and in the way the country is run.

"Things won't change overnight," said Mema, a member of the left-wing pressure group Movement for the University.

"This is not about individuals in a movement… or even about the movement," she told BIRN. "This is about an idea - we will put a brick today, and the people who come behind us will put a brick and this is how you change a society."

Battle won, not the war

Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama. Photo: EPA-EFE/MALTON DIBRA

For students frustrated by the quality of teaching at Albania's state universities, the cost of tuition and the state of student dormitories, the announcement of a hike in the price students would have to pay to re-take exams was a price rise too far.

Public anger with Rama's government, hit by a series of scandals and perceived as presiding over a system where connections more than merit determine success, had already been building.

As word spread on social media, thousands flooded to the Ministry of Education in the capital, Tirana, while others took to the streets in cities such as Elbasan, Shkoder and Durres 28 years to the month since student protests played a major role in bringing down Albania's then communist regime in 1990. They shunned any formal leadership structure or political interference.

The government initially dismissed the students as "failures", but, faced with a growing public outcry, Rama blinked and fired half his cabinet, including the education minister.

He agreed to up government spending on education and address some of the protesters' grievances under a...

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