Société Ukraine

Alternative education forum in Kyiv amid tensions with police

About a hundred demonstrators held a counter-event in downtown Kyiv on September 22 to protest against the neighboring forum of high-ranking education delegates organized by the Council of Europe. Demonstrators have clashed with police forces as a District Administrative Court of Kyiv banned the organization of mass rallies in the city center on 22-23 September.

The forum had been planned for a few months by international student networks such as “Edu-Factory” or “Forum Direct Action”. It was originally supposed to be held on on Mykhailivska square. Because of the court decision, the organizers had to relocate the event to Sofiiska square, that is 200 meters further. On the way, the crowd clashed with security forces several times and a handful of activists were taken away by the police.

They eventually arrived to Sofiiska square and spread mattresses on the ground and started discussing the forum’s themes, namely the commercialization of education and current challenges of Ukrainian universities.

The demonstrators came from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Belarus. A few traveled from third countries. They protested against the current trends in reforming higher education, which they denounced as a “commercialization” of education and as a source of discrimination and xenophobia

Speaking at the opening of the discussions, Michael Burovoy, professor at the State University of Berkeley, said a similar protest was being held on his home-campus to protest against the raise of tuition fees. He regretted the clashes with police, claiming that such a peaceful event should not be broken up as it makes up an “educational meeting”. 

The discussions lasted for the entire afternoon and attempted to offer an alternative vision of education. Four detained activists were released in the evening.

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They were not the only sign of protest against the Council of Europe forum: earlier that day, Darya Stepanenko, a 17-year-old student of the prestigious Kyiv Mohyla Academy, punched the Ukrainian Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk in the face with flowers.

Despite the mass rally ban, a peaceful demonstration is to start on 23 September at 10 a.m. Demonstrators are to gather on Mykhailivska square and walk down to the Cabinet of Ministers building.

Journaliste et voyageur, je suis un Européen d'origine française et observateur insatiable de la composition, décomposition et recomposition du continent. Depuis 2011 en Ukraine, je suis en permanence sur les routes, afin de suivre les évolutions et révolutions qui secouent ce pays. L'occasion d'affiner mon regard sur les différences - et ressemblances - qui font cette autre Europe.

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