December 11, 2018 / 5:55 PM / 5 months ago

Albanian students block Tirana highway in protest at higher fees

Thousands of students of public universities protest against higher tuition fees in front of the Ministry of Education in Tirana, Albania, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Florion Goga

TIRANA (Reuters) - Albanian students blocked a major junction in the capital on Tuesday after the government failed to meet their demands to improve the education system and reverse fee increases announced this month.

The colorful and peaceful protest, which has been going on for a week outside the education ministry, is a rare spontaneous show of anger in a country where rallies are usually organized by political parties.

The protest puts pressure on Socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama whose offers for talks have been rejected.

“Once our eight demands are met, we can have dialogue. There will be no dialogue before that,” a female student told a live broadcast. Those demands include doubling university funding, better student representation, more money for research and better accommodation.

Rama told the protesters in a Facebook post: “I will be waiting for you at any hour and I am willing to work with you, not only to respond to your 8 requests, but also to turn this moment into a new, transformative phase for the universities.”

A 21-year-old third-year IT student, Ledion Mema, carried a poster showing Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and Education Minister Lindita Nikolla captioned: “No can win a war in winter”.

“I am here because the fees are too high and I also want better conditions in class. I rarely use computers ... and we are still taught with chalk on a blackboard,” Mema told Reuters.

Reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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