Students promise to continue strike

SSTO call strike in north on Tues.; university heads extend threat by 1 day.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
May 7, 2007 00:09
2 minute read.
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Now in its 24th day, the university students' strike is "far from over," according to student union leaders. Indeed, promised the two nationwide unions, the National Union of Israeli Students and the National Student Organization, it will only become more severe in the coming days. Around 400 students were marching Monday morning from Haifa's Technion to the Ziv Center nearby in protest. Police closed off the streets in the vicinity. A rally in Tel Aviv was planned for 11 a.m. and a large demonstration at 4 p.m. in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. The unions physically barred the entrances to university campuses - in some places with chains - in order to prevent students from attending class. The three-week-old strike comes in protest of the establishment of the Shochat Committee examining the future of higher education. The student unions demand the dismantlement of the committee due to expectations that it will recommend a rise in tuition. The new, harsher steps come in response to the threat by the Committee of University Presidents (CUP) to sanction students who do not return to classes on Tuesday. The CUP decided to give students one more day. According to National Student Organization head Itay Barda, "The conduct of CUP, the head of the Finance Ministry and the government leaves us no choice but to use greater force. Obviously it is our wish to return to our studies and to negotiations [with the government]." Barda further warned, "we are organizing extreme and far-reaching activities that will leave the country's leaders without any other options except finding appropriate solutions, and quickly." In advertisements in several Friday newspapers, the Committee of University Presidents warned that those who refuse to return to class risked forfeiting the semester's courses entirely, receiving failing grades and losing course credits and tuition money spent for those courses. At the same time, the committee promised to extend the semester by two weeks and give special consideration in make-up material and test grades to students who return to class. But the threat encountered immediate opposition not just from students, but from lecturers as well. Both the junior and senior lecturers' national unions publicly stated that they supported the students' position and vowed to assist striking students in making up lost study material. Senior lecturers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University, along with the college lecturers' unions, even vowed that they would not allow the semester to be discarded for students continuing to strike. Meanwhile, the strike of junior high and high school teachers also renewed this week, with the announcement by the Secondary School Teachers Organization that teachers in grades seven through 12 would be on strike throughout the country's South on Monday. The strike will take place in the towns of Ofakim, Eilat, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Dimona, Yeroham, Kuseifa, Lehavim, Lachish, Mitzpe Ramon, Netivot, Omer, Arad, Arara, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Rahat and in smaller communities near those cities. The SSTO also announced Monday that secondary schools in the north would go on strike Tuesday. While all activities and courses related to matriculation exams will take place normally, as mandated by the National Labor Court, class trips and other out-of-school activities have been canceled. The strike will be suspended - and schools will be open and operating - in communities of the Gaza periphery. The teachers are protesting "foot-dragging" on the part of the Finance and Education Ministries in negotiations over new wage agreements.

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