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TSU Students end protest

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 18
More than a week of protests and conflict at Tbilisi Ivane Javakhishvili State University (TSU) - wherein two groups of students were opposing each other - finished late on March 16 with a special deal and a precondition to Government.

The rival groups of students managed to reach a consensus over the urgent need of reform in TSU after they appealed to the Government to carry out systemic reform in the University and remove the Interior Ministry ‘spies’ from the education institution.

To reach their goal, the students demanded the signing of a special agreement in the coming days between the students, the university leadership and the Ministry of Education about long-lasting cooperation in the reform process.

If the Government fails to start genuine work on the problematic issues before April 16 this year, the students threatened they would launch further large-scaled demonstrations.

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili welcomed the students' solution and promised students a crucial role and participation in the higher education reform process.

“I am very glad the students chose a peaceful form of negotiations. The view of each student is of the utmost importance for the Government,” the PM said.

“Reforming the higher education system is one of our top priorities, and we are eager to carry out systemic reform in this direction. We will maximally involve students in the reform process,” Kvirikashvili added.

The PM admitted the higher education in Georgia required “fundamental reform”.

The conflict started about a week ago when one group of students, calling itself Auditorium 115, protested against the candidate for the post of the University Chancellor (head of administration), who according to them was unsuitable for the seat due to his past activities and his cooperation with Interior Ministry ‘spies’ at TSU.

Chancellor candidate Giorgi Gaprindashvili, who previously served in TSU Student’s Government (Tvitmmartveloba), dismissed Auditorium 115’s accusations over misspending Tvitmmartveloba funds and the abuse of other students and cooperating with embedded Interior Ministry operatives.

To restore peace at TSU ,the PM appealed to Gaprindashvili to remove his nomination from the outset of the conflict. Initially Gaprindashvili resisted, but on March 14 he said he had left the race that triggered protests amongst another group of students, who mainly supported Tvitmmartveloba.

The Tvitmmartveloba demanded the resignation of the University Rector Vladimer Papava, as they accused him of opposing Gaprindashvili’s candidacy.

Meanwhile, Auditorium 115 and a the majority of lecturers were against Papava leaving the post.

Papava himself said he would not resign.

It is obvious that Georgia’s higher education (and all levels of education) require fundamental reform.

It should also be stated that Tbilisi State University - Georgia’s premiere higher education institution - has always been the initiator of moves leading to progress and renovation.

It is also welcome that students can use a civilized form of communication to advance their views.

Their demand is fair - TSU and other education institutions need urgent reform, and such institutions must be free of Interior Ministry spies.

The presence of Ministry spies at various civil institutions has been criticized many times by civil sector representatives and it is time for the Government to settle the issue.