BURKINA FASO: Student hardship after housing closed

Students in Ouagadougou faced severe hardship following sudden eviction from their halls of residence and closure of canteens at the end of June, reported L'Observateur Paalga and Le Pays of Ouagadougou. Dangers to which they were exposed included criminal attack, disease, hunger, rain and being forced into prostitution.

The authorities closed the facilities, apparently without notice, when they suspended courses, following confrontations between students and police two weeks previously (see "Student clashes with police", University World News, 22 June 2008).

At a press conference Daouda Bélem, chair of the student housing committee, said the situation of the 3,000 students evicted from the 11 residences was "alarming" and "very very distressing". Others present at the meeting reported that students were homeless, without food, with no means of looking after themselves, exposed to HIV and other diseases such as malaria and bronchitis, and to crime and prostitution.

Drissa Sindé, general secretary of the committee, said some female students had already turned to prostitution and he had heard of people offering to take in two women at a time in such circumstances.

The students said that, despite the crisis that had closed the university, social provision should have been reduced, not closed down completely. They had tried to contact the authorities, including the education ministry and the prime minister's office, but had received no response.