By Evie Andreou
Students from the Cyprus Technological University (TEPAK) are inviting the island’s entire student body, and teachers’ unions, to a mass rally on January 27 outside the education ministry to protest against proposed legislation that aims to lower the income-based ceiling set for those entitled to a student grant.
TEPAK’s student union said in an announcement on Thursday that they would proceed with mass protests unless the bill was withdrawn.
“The government has shown once more that it does not respect the students’ given benefits and it is attacking non-stop the country’s education with new austerity policies,” the announcement said.
It added that the proposed bill along with the discontinuation of the student package – aid given to the needy for books, laptops, rent and meal coupons – “is stealing the books out of the student’s hand”.
“With their policies they undermine our future and are leading us and our parents to further pauperisation,” the announcement said.
The student union also expressed disappointment for the lack of support from the university’s board.
Education Minister Costas Kadis, responding to AKEL’s accusations concerning the bill, had said last week that the government aimed at targeting the grant so that people who were truly in need could benefit.
He had pointed out that while the ceiling would be lowered, the budget for the grant was not being reduced and that the amount of the grant was based on each applicant’s needs.
The student grant was amongst the first benefits that were slashed due to austerity measures. While in the past the state would give €2,550 to each student, with an additional €850 if the student came from a large family, restrictions were put in place so as students coming from wealthy families wouldn’t receive the grant.
The Pancyprian students’ co-ordinating committee (PSEM) also issued an announcement on Thursday expressing their concern over the fact that the government did not seek a dialogue with the interested parties.
“As tomorrow’s university students we cannot accept that our classmates will not be able to continue their studies because their government does not provide any support,” the announcement said.
It adds that the government, instead of slashing the student grant should first look into the steep salaries high ranking government officials receive and the billions a small number of businessmen owe to it.