Student victory in fight for the right to free bus rides

May 5, 2000

Several thousand Moldovan students who last month took to the streets of the capital, Chisinau, have won a number of valuable financial concessions from the local authorities and the government.

Not only has their initial grievance - the cancellation of their right to free travel on local buses - been revoked, they have also got the government to backtrack over plans to cut student scholarships.

The protests began in mid- April, when the students suddenly found themselves expected to pay for using the city transport system.

Students from the agricultural and medical universities came out onto the streets in force.

There were numerous arrests, but the protests continued and the student demands escalated. They wanted better access to scholarships and concessions on long-distance transport, which is nessary for visits to the countryside to stock up with basic foodstuffs that are in short supply in the capital.

At this point, prime minister Dumitru Braghis, already facing a major political and economic crisis over a threat to $100 million in credits from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions, became involved in negotiations.

The students eventually took up his offer, suspended the protests on April 21, and took a package of demands to Mr Braghis.

A compromise was reached - as well as transport concessions, the proportion of students eligible for scholarships would be raised from 25 to 35 per cent, and the value of scholarships would be increased from September.

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