“There are mushrooms growing all over our walls”
In Skopje, dormitories are generally pretty rundown, but the Goce Delchev dorms are the worst. They are home to about 1,200 students, mainly from the public Ss. Cyril and Methodius University, but also some from private universities. The dorms were built in the late 60s/early 70s, and it appears they’ve pretty much never been repaired or upgraded since.We felt we had to sound the alarm after several fires broke out this past year due to faulty electrical heaters. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but this was the last drop. We live in horrid conditions day in and day out.Mold on the dorm walls.The first thing you notice when you move into the dorms is that a lot of the furniture is broken or missing, so many students have to invest in new furnishings. Only one out of the two elevators in each building is operational, but even then it’s broken most of the time – and these are 14-floor buildings. Getting through the hallways when it’s raining is a real challenge, because of all of the leaks that create puddles on the floor. There is moisture everywhere, leading to mushrooms growing on the walls. The walls are so decrepit that when you clean your room, it’s dusty again in just a few hours. Heating only works from 5pm to about 8 or 9pm; it’s switched off the rest of the time.Hot water is a luxury: during the coldest months this winter, in December and January, we didn’t have any hot water for over two weeks. Imagine taking care of basic hygiene with cold water, when it’s below zero outside! And mind you, you have to share one shower and one toilet with 16 or 32 other students, depending on which floor you live on.Some walls are in dire need of repairs...“Students pay for food, but there’s never enough for everyone in the cafeteria”And then, there’s the cafeteria. Students here like to describe the offerings as “potatoes in 1001 ways”. There are potatoes for pretty much every meal, and students regularly find insectsand pieces of cardboard in the dishes. Besides this lack of quality, there’s a lack of quantity. There’s only ever enough food for about a third of the students, forcing the others to go elsewhere to buy food, even though the price they pay for their dorm room is supposed to cover meals.Students complain that the potatoes served at the cafeteria are often so undercooked they're nearly raw.Rooms cost 56 euros per month. Many students come from outside Skopje, so they can’t live with their parents. And off campus, a room would be closer to 100 euros, which most students (or their parents) cannot afford. Unemployment is very high in Macedonia [at nearly 30 percent of the population], and it’s very difficult to find part-time jobs. So students just try to survive their four years in these awful conditions, and study as best they can under the circumstances.A dilapidated toilet.We’re organising regular meetings with students who want to fight these problems. We’re holding them outside the dorms because, since we started publishing these photos, administrators have been dropping by more frequently, trying to figure out who’s behind this campaign.