afrol News, 17 February - As weekly anti-government protests are planned in Algeria each Saturday, students around the country keep the movement warm during weekdays, organising strikes, sit-ins and protests.
The student protests in Algeria started already on 8 February, almost a week before the pro-democracy protests, and were sparked by unpopular reforms in the qualification system and poor quality of teaching at Algerian universities. But a loose connection to the regional anti-regime protest wave was soon noted.
Since the Saturday anti-government protests in Algiers, which was brutally dispersed by a large number of police troops, the pro-democracy movement mostly has staid off the streets, rather concentrating on setting up a nation-wide organisation to head the protests each Saturday.
But meanwhile, the student protests are going on, spreading and reaching new heights. All over the country and during the entire week, university students have organised strikes, sit-ins and manifestations.
Ten days ago, some 500 students at the University of Algiers started boycotting classes. More student joined in a protest march the day after as an "indefinite strike" was declared. Then, students in thecites of Oran, Tlemcen and Annaba followed up with strikes and manifestations.
This week, the more politicised students have even widened their action. In the city of M'sila, the "indefinite" student strike was announced on Monday. Yesterday, an estimated 15,000 students took to the streets of M'sila, mostly shouting slogans against Algeria's education policies. The protests were peaceful.
Also yesterday, students from several cities, including Boumerdes, Blida and Oran, streamed into the capital, Algiers, establishing a protest camp in front of the Ministry of Higher Education. Students spent the night in front of the Ministry, demanding that a decree reforming the qualification system be called back.
Algeria's independent and usually well-informed daily 'El Watan' reports from the protest camp in front of the Ministry that protesters' numbers were around thousand. A student spokesperson told the newspaper that "we are in contact with 38 universities," all having joined the protest movement.
Government so far has not reacted to these peaceful protests and security forces have not interfered with the students. Student leaders in statements have made sure only to focus on issues relative to education policies, although students' sympathies with the pro-democracy movement have been demonstrated at several occasions.
While government is not interfering with the striking students, government media are not mentioning the student protests. Independent Algerian media, which have a considerable market position, however give the protests an ample coverage.
While the Algerian student protest movement is increasing its pressure on government from day to day, also a wave of strikes is hitting the country. Hospital workers have been on strike, engineers and agronomists have followed and an education sector strike has been announced.
Also the striking groups maintain their mass action is connected to working conditions and salaries and is not in connection with the mounting pro-democracy movement. Popular belief in Algeria however says otherwise.
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