#GrantsNotDebt: London Students Clash with Police over Fee Hikes and Student Debt

At least twelve demonstrators have been arrested after scuffles broke out at a student protest for free education without barriers last week. “Dozens” of officers from the Metropolitan Police territorial support group had to move in when fights broke out with some demonstrators, who wore black, with scarves obscuring their face. Flares, smoke bombs and eggs were thrown at police. Paint was thrown outside the Home Office and some protestors attempted to break into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), but were held back by the police.

Students’ Unions have called a national ballot for strike action against harsh cuts to maintenance grants and student support, with a further day of action planned on November 17th to highlight the treatment of migrants, refugees and international students. The shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell supported the students and accused the government of betraying them, stating “Education is a gift from one generation to another, it is not a commodity to be bought and sold”.

A spokeswoman for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said their group supported “non-violent direct action”, but noted previous cases of police violence against them.  She stated the case of Ashley Meadows who required emergency brain surgery after allegedly being struck with a police baton at student protests in 2010. A BIS spokesman said: “This government is committed to ensuring everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so, regardless of their background.”

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Zimbabwe: Half of all University council staff now to be women

Zimbabwe is steering the General Laws Amendment Bill through parliament at the moment, seeking to bring 126 laws into conformity with their Constitution. If passed, the Higher and Tertiary Education Minister would be compelled by law to ensure that at least half of those appointed onto university councils in ministerial positions are women.

The Bill arose after President Mugabe’s cabinet subsequent to July 2013 elections held very few women. The former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed these elections were rigged, leading to a lack of confidence in the government. The Zimbabwean Constitution recognises that “the state must also take all measures, including legislative measures, to ensure that both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government”, something which this bill is intended to help ensure.

Their Constitution states that the country must take “just and fair affirmative action”, says Majome of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, to promote those groups who have been previously marginalized. The relatively new Zimbabwean Constitution has been heralded as a major achievement, putting checks on the power of President Robert Mugabe and giving Zimbabwean citizens “greater liberties” than have been expressed in previous Constitutions.

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Moroccan academic suspends hunger strike.

The Moroccan academic Maati Monjib suspended his three-week long hunger strike on October 29th, after authorities ended a ban on him travelling. Monjib, a professor of political history at the Institute of African Studies of Mohamed V University in Rabat, claims his battle is not yet over. He has been summoned to a tribunal on 19th November, accused of “destabilising state security based on article 206 of the Moroccan Penal Code.”

Monjib started his hunger strike on 6th October, after Casablanca airport authorities did not allow him to travel to Norway to attend a seminar on 10th August. The seminar would have trained him and other journalists with “investigative skills” and “civic journalism”. He was summoned by the National Brigade of the Judicial Police on September and was accused of threatening state security and of accepting foreign funds to destabilise Moroccan confidence in their institutions.

Many international organisations have called for the charges to be dropped, including CODESRIA, the Middle East Studies Association, Freedom Now, and the Front Line Defenders, who are “Ireland’s International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders”.