Albanians repeat food and lodging protest that once led to Kosovo war

December 17, 1999

Kosovar Albanian students, who only recently won their long battle for Albanian-taught courses within the official higher education system, are demonstrating once more - this time over hostel and canteen charges.

The leadership of the Independent Students Union of Pristina University, which spearheaded the former political protests, is now calling on all students to refuse to pay the charges demanded by the university's student centre, which manages food and accommodation. Student union branches in the philology, mathematics/science and physical education faculties have acquiesced to the new charges, much to the irritation of the rest.

The central union has appealed to the rector, the Kosovo education ministry, the United Nations interim administration mission in Kosovo, and "all relevant Albanian and foreign forces" to help the students overcome the "machinations" of the student centre management, and to ensure better living conditions for the Pristina students.

The protests in one sense herald a return to normality for higher education in Kosovo.

But to veteran Pristina-watchers, they have an odd sense of deja-vu.

For it was similar student demonstrations, over hostel and canteen prices, back in March 1981, that triggered the general movement first for Kosovo to be a republic in the old Yugoslavia, and then for outright independence, thus setting in motion the process that eventually led to Nato intervention.

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