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Lebanese police clash with students protesting tuition hikes

BEIRUT — Lebanese riot police scuffle with students protesting a decision by top universities to adopt a new dollar exchange rate to price tuition — equivalent to a major fee hike.

Near the entrance of the American University of Beirut (AUB) in the city’s Hamra district, security forces fire tear gas to disperse protesters who are trying to approach the main gate.

Students respond by throwing water bottles and other objects at riot police blocking their path.

It isn’t immediately clear if there are any injuries.

Lebanese students burn dumpsters while protesting a decision by top universities to adopt a new dollar exchange rate to price tuition, in Beirut’s Hamra district, on December 19, 2020. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

The protest comes in response to a decision by AUB and the Lebanese American University (LAU), another top private institution, to price tuition based on an exchange rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

The nosediving currency is still officially pegged at around 1,500 pounds to the greenback.

The move has prompted fears that other universities could follow suit, potentially leading to an exodus of students from private institutions while public universities remain underfunded and overstretched.

Hundreds of students gathered in Hamra earlier today in a protest they billed a “student day of rage.”

They chanted anti-government slogans and called for affordable education in a country mired in its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Later in the evening, some torched dumpsters to block the street and vandalized banks before security forces pushed them out.

— AFP

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