MINSK – The student movement in Belarus is being violently repressed while protesting against the introduction of complementary fees at universities. The European Students’ Union (ESU) stands in solidarity with the Belarusian students, in strongly condemning the violations of academic freedom, and urges the universities to stop all forms of repressions on students.
Almost all Belarusian universities have introduced fees for students who have failed an exam and have to retake it in order to get credits. Therefore universities are putting additional unhealthy pressure on students and disregarding the students’ right to progress freely through the education cycles.
When the Belarusian State University (BSU), one of the last institutions not having these fees, announced the introduction of such a norm as of January 2016, the students protested, reaching 2,500 students’ signatures against the reform. This resulted in BSU pressuring the activists to stop the protest and the introduction of the complementary fees was formalised just the day after the students presented the signatures to the rector.
Soon afterwards, similar students’; initiatives started in other universities with the aim of abolishing the already-introduced fee. Once again, the reaction has been violent repression of the student movement, including cracking personal accounts belonging to students on the social networks and threatening them with extreme actions, like expulsion or being dragged to court, based on non-existing legal backgrounds.
The crackdown on student activists in Belarus is a clear violation of academic freedom that Belarus firmly committed to uphold when the country was admitted into the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and became a full member of the Bologna Process in May 2015 in Yerevan, Armenia.
The European Students’; Union stands in solidarity with the Belarusian students to ensure academic freedom.t is unacceptable that students are being suppressed and threatened by their own universities, in clear violation of the right to protest -a basic student right enshrined in the European Students’ Rights Charter.
ESU calls upon Belarusian authorities and higher education institutions including the Belarusian State University, to stop the violation of academic freedom and oppressions of students. Belarus must follow the core values of the European Higher Education Area including ensuring academic freedom in all its aspects.