From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Students Warn of Protests after Government Ignores Plea for Help

A request from 5000 Albanian students for the government to provide them with a bonus of 10,000 ALL (EUR 85) to help them deal with the economic crisis has been refused by the government leading to warnings of protests and demonstrations this autumn.

Last week the government announced a social assistance package including an increase in the minimum wage and more money for pensioners, the disabled, and single mothers with two children.  But students say they have been left out of the package, despite claims they are struggling to meet the cost of living.

In response to the petition, the government said it could not provide aid except what is already given, including those with economic assistance, the scholarship of excellence, and those who choose studies designated as a national priority.

The Movement for the University called the response “insulting”.

“Through a curated email, we learned that the government thinks there is no need for any additional measures because, after the queue of several VKMs [changes to the law] a few years ago, the current crisis is easing. We congratulate the government on the extraordinary achievement of official communication (almost) without spelling errors,”  they wrote in their response.

The organisation added that students should prepare for a season of resistance and protest to “restore dignity to students.”

Struggling to survive

Bruna Sollaku completed her Bachelor’s studies hopes to continue with a Master’s but says the fees combined with cost of living puts it in jeopardy.

“I still don’t know if I will have the opportunity to continue my master’s degree since the fees for the master’s degree are too high to bear; as if that wasn’t enough, the cost of living has also increased,” she told Citizens Channel. A scientific master’s degree at the University of Tirana costs around 75,000 ALL per year (EUR 636).

Bruna says that she finds it difficult to afford a master’s degree if she does not work.”I am a student who comes from the districts, and I have extra costs; I mention here rent, water, the electricity that has increased, without mentioning food,” she said.

J.Z from Tropoje, who is studying veterinary science in Tirana, said the situation is so bad that he is considering going illegally to the UK.

“I can’t afford school or living; my family cannot help me much because we don’t have much money. There are six people in the family, and I am the son of the house; as we have a tradition, I am expected to take care of the family,”  he said.

“I’ve decided that nothing keeps me here anymore. But I will finish my studies, and then I will leave. At least I will have a school because I spent two years there and the money for the course. As we all do, I thought of going from France to the UK by raft; it’s the cheapest way.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Edi Rama has been presented with a spoof award from students of the Civic Center. The Guinness World Record Certificate for ignoring students was stuck to the wall of the prime minister’s office over the weekend.

“The students were not mentioned in any point, line or letter of the package. Since 2019, when the entire country went into isolation due to the pandemic, until today, Albanian students have not only lacked concrete aid but have already disappeared from the vocabulary of this government”, said student Gevio Tabaku to the media.

“Expensive rents, at least EUR300, even in Astir, and you have a hard time finding a place to live. The cost of living has become unaffordable. Where from basket products, interurban transport tickets and all other expenses are more burdensome for students today than ever”, he added.