SENEGAL: One education ministry becomes three

The functions of the former Ministry of Education, Technical Education and Professional Training have been reallocated between three new ministries, including one which covers secondary and higher education. Meanwhile, a group of senior academics has called for greater priority for research, and some students risk losing the opportunity to sit their end-of-year examinations because of protest action by teachers on short-term contracts.

The ministerial reorganisation was reported by Le Soleil of Dakar, which said there would in future be three ministries covering education - of preschool, primary and middle education; of technical and professional education; and of secondary education, regional university centres and universities, for which Professor Moustapha Sourang has been appointed the new minister. Le Soleil notes that he will have to cope with the difficulties of integrating 30,000 school-leavers armed with the baccalauréat into the higher education system.

Meanwhile, the Agence de Press Sénégalèse reported that participants at a conference organised by an action group of humanities and human sciences post-doctoral academics of the University of Gaston Berger (UGB) in Saint-Louis called for greater priority to be given to research in Africa to counter economic and social development problems.

Oumar Diop, lecturer in geography and chair of the university's scientific committee, pointed to the insignificant place that research occupied in Senegal where university budgets allocated it no dedicated funding.

"Research is a route for rising out of under-development and becoming truly independent by determining the resources necessary for survival," the agency reported Diop saying. He deplored the low status of researchers who were often badly paid and preferred to work abroad to escape hard living conditions and lack of space to develop their knowledge.

Diop also regretted that the few research institutes that existed in the country did not adapt to their environment, and suggested that the location of UGB, for example, would make it well suited to carry out agronomic research.

Elsewhere, in Dakar, university teachers on short-term contracts working in the science and technology faculty at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop were boycotting last week's end-of-year exams in protest against their insecure job status, reported Wal Fadjri in Dakar.

The boycott was part of their "third action plan" which also included not revealing marks they had awarded students during practical work sessions, a week's strike, organising a sit-in outside the education authority and a meeting with the Senegalese tachers' union.

Their grievances were over the government's refusal to open talks about their demands which included conditions of recruitment, medical cover, increased pay and the issuing of professional cards "to avoid confrontation with police in the event of students strikes", according to Wal Fadjri. split) (Diop) (Diop) (contract workers' action)