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News 13 Mar 14

Macedonian Students' 'Hellish' Dorm Protest Goes Viral

Shocking images of the state of student dorms in Goce Delcev, the largest student dormitory in the capital, have drawn thousands of comments on the internet around the world.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

A student room

Images of mold-covered walls, squalid toilets, decaying corridors, rooms damp from broken pipes and a canteen with a dismal-looking array of food, have drawn attention on social networks to the plight of students in Macedonia.

The gallery of images is part of a student drive to obtain better conditions in university dormitories, dubbed Operation Dorm, “Operacija studentski”.

“Student dormitories in Macedonia are notorious for their sub-human conditions,” the irate students wrote. “This one in particular is deteriorating very quickly, both from too much corruption within the internal dormitory administration and from the indifference of the government structures,” they wrote.

Images posted on the site Imgur have drawn thousands of comments worldwide, deploring the miserable conditions depicted, and declaring solidarity with the students.

The gallery then went viral on Reddit and Facebook as well, catching the attention of some of the world's leading media.

The students write that many toilets and showers are broken, and that leaking pipes are a common occurrence in dorms. So is a shortage of hot water, electricity, heating, food and the internet.

“We are raising our voice because this is not acceptable anymore!" a statement from the students’ movement reads, adding that existing student associations have been no help.

“The Students Union and Student Parliament have been explaining to us that... if we do not like it we should leave, that we should be silent, because either way we cannot change anything."

bathroom

Built in the 1970, the dorm that houses more than 1,200 students of the state Sts Cyril and Methodius University was once considered a marvel of modernist, brutalist architecture.

But one of the building's co-authors, architect Georgi Konstantinovski, says the building has not received a facelift since it was built.

“The dormitory belongs to the state and the state should take care of it. Since we now have billionaires in our society I would also recommend they help, too. Let them renovate at least one block of the dorm and restore it to its original condition,” Konstantinovski said in an interview for Radio MOF.

Official announcements that the dorm will be renovated have been frequent since an elevator collapsed In July 2011. Students say it still is not fixed.

In April 2013, a fire blamed on old electrical wiring set several student rooms alight, prompting fresh announcements of renovation.

The Education Ministry, which is directly in charge of the student dormitory on Thursday said it has invested over 3 million euro so far in renovation of other student dormitories.

“We will work on improving conditions in this dormitory immediately after the [April] elections. We plan to use the summer for that because of the smaller frequency of students during that period,” Education Minister Spiro Ristovski said in his first reaction.

The dorm was built in the 1970's

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