ALGIERS—As Algerian university students and professors continue boycotting classes in support of a protest movement that seeks to topple the existing government, some are raising concerns that their actions may have the effect of wiping out the current academic year.
Students played a pivotal role in widespread protests that began in February after the nation’s former long-serving president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, announced that he would seek re-election. (See a related article, “Algerian Students Thwart President Bouteflika’s Bid for a Fifth Term.”) Despite Bouteflika’s subsequent decision to step down, the popular movement has continued, with protesters calling for the departure of interim President Abdelkader Bensalah and other heads of the former regime, along with improvements in education and other social services.
Earlier this week, students announced a national strike that halted classes at several universities, including the University of Algiers, the University of El Oued, and universities in the cities of Blida and Bab-ezzouar.
But some students and professors say that even though they support the goals of the protest movement, they’re also worried that shutting down classes and failing to hold exams could nullify their academic progress this year.
“The only loser of this strike is the students,” said Hisham Bourouri, a student of communication and public relations at Mohamed Lamine Debaghine–Sétif 2 University, which declared an open strike on April 14. “I am with the popular movement and its demands, but I find no reason to disrupt studies,” he added.
Fears of a ‘White Year’
Tasnim Mbarki, a third-year architecture student at the University of the Frères Mentouri–Constantine 1, is also concerned about the disruption of universities and its impact on her future.
“The continuation of the strike means a ‘white year’ in universities and the loss of a full academic year for us,” she said. “This would be very costly. We need to finish our studies and get involved in work.”
The term “white year,” or “blank year,” refers to an academic year that does not include any exams and therefore students are not evaluated and are required to take all of their courses again.
At the governmental level, Ali Ghamaz, an inspector at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, criticized the students’ continuing involvement in the political movement, saying it disrupts their university track.
“We know very well the attitude of professors and students, and their demands for change and improving the status of higher education has been delivered,” he said. He added, however, that it’s important to separate what is happening on streets and what is happening on campuses.