Sunday, May 31, 2020

Birzeit University students strike against tuition costs

By Editor - August 08, 2012
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Birzeit University] [Hunger Strike]

On Sunday, 22 July 2012, the Birzeit University campus was closed off by students protesting the rise in tuition costs.

The strike was due to begin earlier on Thursday, but the student council acknowledged the importance of initiating it after the midterm period for summer classes were over.
For a student attending Birzeit University, these strikes are not uncommon. In fact, every semester student strikes against the increasing tuition and faculty strikes against low wages disrupt classes for a week or two, before coming to some sort of arrangement that inevitably collapses and restarts the strikes the following semester in cyclical fashion.
Engineering student Kifah Quzmar insists that the current strike differs from the previous ones in that it is more serious and reflects the worst financial crisis the Palestinian Authority is going through.
“Tuition costs have increased by 25%,” Quzmar informed the Palestine Monitor. “The applications for freshmen have increased by 100%, from 20 Jordanian dinars to 40 Jordanian dinars.”
Union leader Amjad Barham pointed out last week that the aid-dependent PA fiscal crisis hinders university from their academic performances. “Universities are suffering from a financial crisis due to the delay in payments from the Palestinian Authority,” he said. Western backed PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is investing in a plan to reduce the PA annual budget deficit, placed at 1.1 billion dollars, to 750 million dollars through spending cuts and corporate tax rises.
Adel al-Zagha, university’s vice president for financial affairs, told reporters in Ramallah that there is little chance of resolving the university’s budget deficit if tuition costs are not raised.
“When we can get past this yearly crisis without raising tuition, it is only by good luck, which can’t be guaranteed every year,” he said. “Last year we had a budget deficit of 4 million Jordanian Dinars, and we expect it to reach 6 million next year if we don’t raise tuition.”
Students have blocked the road leading to the West Gate on campus with concrete slabs, and have chained shut the East Gate, where a small group of 20 in rotating shifts have been on a 24 hour sit in since the first day of the strike.
“We sleep outside,” Quzmar conveyed. “It gets pretty cold at night, but that’s not the issue here. The university guards have locked all the bathrooms, but we managed to get mattresses from one building.”
On Wednesday 25 July, twelve Israeli occupation military jeeps went past Birzeit to the village of Mazra’ah Sharqiyeh, where they arrested five young men. On the way back, the students on strike began throwing rocks at the jeeps, and the Israeli soldiers responded by firing tear gas canisters, sound bombs, and stun grenades intensively. The altercation last no more than ten minutes and a couple of students had to be taken to hospital after suffocating from the tear gas. The next day the students string up the gas canisters and sound bombs on the East Gate.
Organized by students, a demonstration was held in front of the Council of Ministries, in the Masyoun neighborhood in Ramallah last Monday morning, to demand the payment of dues by the PA to resolve the crisis. Despite the low turnout, the demonstrators remained confident that their message was delivered to the officials.
“Our demand is simple,” said Quzmar. “Lower the tuition costs. The average Palestinian family income can’t afford to pay for their sons and daughters’ university fees. This is a disgrace, and we shouldn’t marginalize students whose families have a low income.”
“After all,” he continues, “we want our university to develop academically, and in all other aspects and not be tied to the economic crises of the PA, at the expense of the students’ education and future.”
In a statement released on August 8th, the university administration condemned the shutting down of university by the students, calling it an “illegal act” that is in stark contradiction with the university’s spirit of dialogue. The statement was issued as a result of the second summer semester being cancelled as there has been no solution or an end to the student strike in sight, which is determined to see lower tuition costs but on the unfortunate side, has jeopardized the plans of students who were counting on graduating at the end of the semester.

Our demand is simple, lower the tuition costs. The average Palestinian family income canít afford to pay for their sons and daughtersí university fees

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