On Monday, students all over Germany will be protesting in more than ten cities, including Bonn, Hannover, and Dresden, after having gone three months without any substantial help to break their financial fall. The decentralised rallies are an effort to put on an effective protest under the unusual circumstances COVID-19 has brought. On 20th June, a more extensive demonstration in Berlin is planned to follow, with strict precautions in place to guarantee a safe protest.
Of the three million students in Germany, more than one million have lost their jobs since March, a recent survey found. Many of them find themselves in dire straits as students are not eligible for unemployment benefits or other transfer payments. The German Federal Law on Support in Education (BAföG), designed to support students during their education, allows payments of up to 853 EUR per month. Still, due to its restrictive terms, only 12% of students receive even part of that amount.
The German National Union of Students fzs and the Federal Union of international Students BAS have teamed up with more than a hundred other student organizations in Germany to shine a light on the problem.
“The federal minister of education, Anja Karliczek, has not shown any signs of taking the problem seriously,” says Amanda Steinmaus, member of the board at fzs. “So far all she has done is point students in the direction of a loan that comes with a substantial interest rate and that in many cases is due for repayment before the student has earned their degree. Now students are forced to choose between terminating their studies or amassing a heaping mound of debt. This is particularly daunting as it is unclear how the economic situation is going to develop. It means that students with non-academic backgrounds are extremely likely to drop out rather than face that kind of struggle.”
Ahmed Khadr from BAS agrees: “We need a grant-based aid rather than a credit-based one, and it needs to be big enough to support all students in need throughout this crisis. We are still waiting for the grant scheme Ms. Karliczek announced in April, but even when it arrives, it is already clear that the 100 million € she promised will not be enough for the one million students in need.”
He adds: “International students are particularly vulnerable during this crisis. They are not eligible for BAföG and they often find their legal status at risk. Measures need to be taken to ease the situation for them. Otherwise, a whole generation of international students will have to terminate their studies and leave the country. It is unconscionable to allow that to happen. We expect Ms. Karliczek to act.”