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News 23 Apr 15

Photo: Macedonian Pupils and Students Unite in Protest

Thousands of school pupils were joined by students, teachers and university professors on Thursday in Skopje at one of the biggest protest marches in the past few years in Macedonia.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Some ten thousand pupils and students on Thursday demanded the resignation of Macedonia's Education Minister, Abdualaqim Ademi, and a halt to externally controlled state-run graduation exams.

"We will not stop there, we will continue our fight for charge-free education... There is no democratic society made up of free thinking people without a good education. We will not let them make us into spineless goons," Vasilie Stojanovski, one of the protest organizers, said.

Protesters held banners reading, "Do not destroy our education", "Pupils are not guinea pigs" and "Minister, are you afraid of us", and chanted, "Together we are stronger", "We are the loud Macedonia", "Can you hear us now?" and "No justice, no peace".

Several smaller protests were held in other towns across the country.

The big protest in the capital started with a gathering of pupils in Skopje's central park and ended in front of the Education Ministry. Half-way through the march, in front of the government building, the pupils were joined by a large group of students and together they lit up a symbolic "torch of unity and solidarity".

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

This was the third big protest of pupils in Skopje and comes after 12 days of boycotts of classes in many high schools. The first march was on March 19 and the second on April 1.

The pupils are especially angered that minister Ademi has refused to find the time to meet them for talks on their demands.

Ademi insists that the pupils, gathered in an informal movement called the Pupils' Plenum, are being politically manipulated by the opposition parties. He has agreed to only meet representatives from the High School Union, which is against the protests.

The minister previously asked the State Ombudsman's office to condemn what he called the political manipulation of minors - only to receive a cool response.

The Ombudsman, Ixhet Memeti, responded that the Education Ministry should “respect pupils’ right to protest” and should engage in discussion with them.

The protesting pupils announced they might soon radicalize their protest, but did not reveal details. They said they will soon start a continuous camp in the park in front of the ministry in the hope that the minister would see them and invite them for dialogue.

The protesting pupils are following in the footsteps of their older colleagues from the the "Students' Plenum", which launched a series of mass protests in December against plans to introduce similar external, government-run exams for students, and which succeeded in stopping their implementation.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

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