Date: Sun, 14 Dec 97 11:09:02 CST
From: (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Tens Of Thousands Of Students In Germany Protest Education Cuts

Tens of thousands of students in Germany protest education Cuts

By Ernesto Oleinik, Militant, Vol.61 no.44, 15 December 1997

STOCKHOLM—In the largest student demonstrations in Germany in nearly 30 years, more than 45,000 students, youth, and others marched through the streets November 27 protesting a lack of study materials, a new law shortening the time students are allowed to study, and the overfilled classrooms in which students sometimes outnumber professors 600 to one.

Demonstrators are also protesting the government's attempt to regularize and increase tuition fees.

In Bonn the protesters numbered 40,000, while in Kiel 5,000 marched through the city center. Other actions took place in Berlin, Frankfurt, Leipzig, and elsewhere.

The demonstrations, which followed student protests in late October and a November 26 boycott of classes by 4,000 students in Berlin, are in response to cuts in education funding by the different state governments. The cuts are carried out in the name of reducing the budget deficit in order to qualify for the European Monetary Union (EMU).

The education system in Germany is financed with taxes through the university level, which was free until last year. Lately both the federal and state governments have floated plans to charge for education and make it more difficult for students to study for a longer period. Most of the comments in the bourgeois dailies argue that the reason for the crisis is too many students are financed by tax money.

One of the main themes of the student demonstrations was that education should remain an entitlement paid for by the state. Fabian Wagner, a 21-year-old engineering student, told the International Herald Tribune, Education must be available to everybody, not only to the children of the wealthy. German chancellor Helmut Kohl has tried to put the blame for the lack of university financing on the 16 state governments—a majority of which are controlled by the opposition Social Democrats.

Claiming to support the protesters, Kohl declared, Many of the students' complaints are justified and deserve our sympathy and support.

Pointing at the state governments he asserted, The states are responsible for education, not the federal government.

Many students didn't buy this, though. A popular chant in the protests was: Education, not Eurofighter, referring to the parliament's decision to approve the new Eurofighter project, a military joint-venture between the governments of Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

The government called for further cuts in the social security system in order to secure Bonn's competitiveness and get Germany in the EMU.

In Berlin students have been forced to pay 100 DM (US$56) per semester in tuition fees since last year. This move provoked protests of tens of thousands of students in Berlin in June 1996, who saw this simply as the first step in institutionalizing a fee for education.