Prime Minister Edi Rama meeting with students at newly renovated student dormitory buildings

Prime Minister Edi Rama meeting with students at dormitory buildings 28/29 following completion of works to expand and renovate on-campus student housing. Renovation of three dormitory buildings has completed while intense works continue to reconstruct 11 other dormitory buildings:

PM Edi Rama: We just visited the newly renovated common areas at the student dormitory buildings and it seems to me that they live up by our expectations. I don’t know how would you like them, yet I personally think that pretty quality work has been done and they have now nothing to do with the situation we found out last time we visited the Student’s City. Actually, this is going to be the standard for all student dormitory buildings that are being reconstructed, whereas in the meantime we are working with the Tirana municipality to press ahead with the student campus project.

It is indeed a very complex and ambitious project, but we are facing a serious problem in the efforts to retrieve the occupied spaces as a part of them have been illegally used as part of the property compensation and restitution process, something which should have not happened as it violates the existing law, which stipulates that no property restitution is provided when it is about sports grounds and school buildings. A number of dormitory buildings that belonged to the Student City have been privatized and all these are related to the implementation of the whole project. Therefore, we are making the necessary inventory for the expropriation process. Meanwhile the new spaces construction project, whether of a recreational or academic nature, is already underway.

So I believe that the student dormitories across the country will be expanded and renovated up to these standards by the end of this term in office. Meanwhile, I was told that project to renovate the interior premises will be carried out during summer when students go home and of course it is impossible to work while you are still here. Upon your return for the coming academic year, your rooms will be renovated up to same reconstruction standards. After that, other student dormitories will under same renovation projects.

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj: Work to reconstruct three student dormitory buildings has completed to date, while work is underway on 11 other buildings. Work is set to kick off to renovate more dormitory buildings ahead of summer season and they will all complete by end of summer.

PM Edi Rama: Renovation projects on student dormitories in Tirana will all complete by end of next season and after that we will expand projects to other dormitories, which are few in number, but we want to deliver on our commitment to complete whole this ambitious plan within this term in office and at the start of the next term in office of Mayor Veliaj we will launch work to construct the new university campus. It is a major and complex project but we are committed to finalize it. Just like we are committed to go ahead with other projects to build lecture rooms, laboratories and the whole university infrastructure by end of this year or beginning of the next year to address all needs we have already identified following a process of cooperation between the ministries and the universities under the partnership scheme we have built, gradually launching the biggest higher education investments in 30 years and the future investments in the higher education exceed the investments over the past 30 years combined.

– We are really satisfied with the ongoing investments. We insist to achieve certain goals in order to make sure that the student needs are met. What we can do is to maintain the newly renovated premises and pass them down to the future student generations. Our rooms should be renovated too. You just mentioned it and we normally want some other conditions improve, including kitchen and laundry facilities, but we understand and want to cooperate with you.

PM Edi Rama: We will do whatever is needed to be done. If you are ready to free your rooms today, then we are ready to kick off their renovation right now, but I don’t think you would.

– Everyone keeps demanding, but we should also learn to be appreciative. First, I would like to appreciate you for what you have already done. I am not saying this is a miracle, yet it is much better that it used to be. I would also like to thank you for increasing the scholarship payment to 10 000 lek from a previous payment of 4 500 lek as my family is a beneficiary of the social welfare scheme and cannot afford the education expenses. This is something very good, including the lower tuition fee.

PM Edi Rama: But, let’s calculate it correctly. If we are to divide the scholarship of 45 000 lek in parts so that you can earn it yourselves by finding a job, then it is completely possible.

– Two months ago, I took up a job as operator, but it was really impossible to work and study at the same time. There are many students who make such a sacrifice, but one should decide whether to work or study full-time. It is impossible to work and study at the same time.

PM Edi Rama: It is not about finding a full-time job so that you receive a full monthly salary, but it is about getting a part-time job just to cover expenses and covering this expense is fully possible.

– What is currently happening at the Agricultural University of Tirana?

Mayor Erion Veliaj: A situation has been created at the Agricultural University, which is located in one of Tirana’s most problematic areas. Not because local residents are problematic, quite the contrary, they are really decent people, but the area is problematic in terms of urban development. It is all about an area on the border between Kamza and Tirana municipalities, in a so-called no man’s land. People do not see tangible borders, because there is no such a border. Informal buildings are mainly to be found in the area and it includes several residential areas and it is called the Administrative Unit 11. While designing the new schools project, we have calculated that at least 2000 schoolchildren are forced to travel all the way to Lapraka neighbourhood to Aleks Buda high school every day. The distance is around 10 km. A parent pays for the transport and some 200 minivans travel to Lapraka each day. What we propose is that all new schools that are about to be built, including Mother Teresa school – one of the 17 new schools in that neighbourhood – be located in a distance of 500 to 600 meters only, so that schoolchildren can just walk.

Before we talk about the Agricultural University we should consider the higher education schools. Our philosophy is to see those children as a potential and an opportunity, whereas the other philosophy wants to consider them as a contingent of protesters. I think that such a mentality can easily change If we build a school there so that future engineers and doctors are born. Nobody protested when a motel was built inside the student campus there. It has become a trend that anytime Tirana municipality launches a project, others seek to block it. The same happened at Astiri and Bregu i Lumit neighbourhoods. There are two options only, either we do, or do nothing. The Prime Minister’s and Tirana municipality’s plan is dedicated to education. The urban planning should be and is being used for education. It makes no sense seeing at authors of the previous urban planning raise their voice.

PM Edi Rama: It is something else that is worth highlighting. We have done for the Agricultural University more than what has been done over all these years combined, as we found a completely occupied and degraded territory in terms of infrastructure. Such occupation and degradation is certainly a consequence of the political affiliations of various nature and it is normal that we don’t agree, but the quality of co-existence in any environments, from the family environment to the broad social environment is not decided by the fact how many people agree. It is decided by the fact how we don’t agree. You may not agree and be executed and you may not agree and instead debate calmly. Both sides feel comfortable in this process as they are interacting and communicating with each other. This idea or this developing trend, which we won’t allow to grow and take the form a legitimate instrument, to reject and block everything is a barbarism. This is not civility. Because we are also people and like everyone else we are certainly fallible, but I am convinced we are setting a standard that will be difficult, if not to be reversed in the future. This country has a government and a governing majority ready to listen to the others and is predisposed to reflect and has the courage to say: “Ok, you are right on this issue and we are willing to change it,” and there is no need for warnings and threats. There is no need for such things as we can discuss them. It is not necessary to agree on everything, but, as I said, the way we agree defines the quality of the democratic co-existence.

You here too, with your room doors in front of each other, form a kind of community living within an area, having to share same space you may disagree with each other at some point, but there are ways to address disputes.

You can solve your disputes by fighting and pulling each other’s hair and both sides will emerge unhappy. You could address disputes by smiling and offering readiness to listen to each other. In this aspect, what Erion said, is essential to us.

We can’t accept a new law, stipulating that whoever yells, threatens and violate the pentagram of the harmony among the people, he would succeed. No he doesn’t succeed and won’t succeed in no level and for no reason. What does this mean?! We overreact, boycott, clash. What is this?! It doesn’t succeed and it won’t succeed. But, concerning this case, this is typical, because we were right here past December. We didn’t cut it short. We didn’t say: “No, you are not right.” Instead, we acknowledged: “You are right, yet we are going to address these issues sometimes in the future.” We could have had done this too, but one should clearly understand. We didn’t positively react to the student protest because they threatened our majority or the government.

This was not the reason, because we could actually do nothing in this aspect. However, we are not there to ignore the people who have voted us, or the people we serve to.

We are there to listen and at least tell the people whether they are or they are not right, what we agree and what we don’t agree on. We may not agree on everything, because, after all we are voted to govern and not to agree with every individual or group and tell them “yes, you are right.”

There are times when bare truth should be said, because this our responsibility and our duty, but if we are always to acknowledge ‘you are right” about everything, which indeed can’t be the case, then you would tell us: “Yes, we said this, but we elected you to govern and why did you govern us in the wrong direction while knowing that not everything was going right?” During the December student protest, we understood clearly well you were right and we met the student demands and we wouldn’t be able to include your concerns on our agenda, not because we weren’t were of them, but we thought to address them later given the Albanian state’s opportunities. It is not that we can afford everything and every opportunity and in such conditions you should address the most immediate needs.

The protest was enough for us to reflect and say: “No, this is more important,” although it was not immediate in the sense of certain impacts. But it is immediate for each of you and never forget, we may disagree, but the way we do not agree determines the quality of life, determines the quality of coexistence, determines the quality of a relationship and a friendship. Even at home you may not agree with your parents on everything, even you are at an age when you generally disagree, but it depends a lot on how. To conclude, I want to reiterate that we will continue work with renovation of your rooms when you give us the opportunity.

Mayor Erion Veliaj: Next week, the Council of Ministers’ decision on the student card will be forwarded to the Prime Minister next week. The document is ready. As soon as the cabinet meeting ends, we will host a public hearing with students. We will introduce the student card. The City Council has adopted around 40 public services. Meanwhile, many private companies, mainly libraries, or clothing companies, have offered discounts of 15% to 40 % for students. So, the Prime Minister will be pleased to hand over the card to the first group of students next month. We will make every effort to make sure that every student is provided with the student card by July at most. We will imitate the government’s model in providing the identity cards and passports. So an office tasked with providing the student card will operate in the Student City.