International news briefs


Campaign against fees

The campaign against tuition fees in England, Scotland and Wales is heating up. A four-day occupation of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London ended on January 29. It was part of a campaign to defend around 40 students, who have refused to pay their fees, from expulsion. Solidarity actions were held on February 9, and a national day of action has been called for February 23.

Under pressure from student protests and confronting a failing system (£15 million in tuition fees, 10% of the total, went unpaid last year), the Scottish parliament and British education secretary David Blunkett announced some concessions on January 25.

In Scotland, up-front fees will be replaced by the Scottish Graduate Endowment Scheme, in which grants must be repaid once students start waged work. The income threshold for repayment is just £10,000. Repayments are set at a rate of 9% of the salary for the first two years. An independent committee of inquiry which reported in January recommended that the threshold should be £25,000, and the debt be paid back at 2% a year.

In England and Wales, the parental income threshold, above which students must pay fees, will be raised from £17,000 per year to £20,000. This still means that anyone in a two-income family will have to pay fees. Scholarships of £2000 will be introduced, but only for 10,000 students.

On February 14, the minister for higher and further education, training and employment, Sean Farren, announced a government review of tuition fees and students loans.

Students are demanding: no fees; an amnesty for all non-payers; no disciplinary action against non-payers; and a fully funded, non-means tested student living allowance.

By Marina Carman

Acehnese students strike

BANDA ACEH — On February 11, Radio Nikoya-FM reported that SPUR, School-pupils Solidarity for the People, called a three-day study strike in Aceh from February 14 to 16.

SPUR is calling for all Indonesian troops in Aceh to disarm and withdraw to barracks, and for talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) about a referendum on independence. "Representation on the Acehnese side should include all the parties involved, otherwise we would not accept it", said Farhan, chairperson of SPUR.

Farhan said that an ad hoc court should be set up to deal with human rights violations because it is clear that the existing judicial system will never try the perpetrators of abuses in Aceh. "The Free Aceh Movement, GAM, should also lay down their arms. We have called upon the two sides to agree to a cease-fire", said Farhan.

[Based on information translated and compiled by TAPOL, an Indonesian human rights watch organisation based in England.]