SENEGAL: University students reluctant to leave campus

Students remaining at Senegal's biggest university, Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, have finally left the campus after water and electricity supplies were cut off last week. They had been refusing to leave their accommodation at the end of an extended academic year, protesting that they had not received their grants.

Their complaints coincided with a call from the university's outgoing mediator for establishment of a system that would ensure punctual payment of student grants and salaries of non-teaching staff, as such delays were the cause of nearly all unrest at the university during the past year.

The academic year, which should have ended on 31 July, was extended twice for conclusion of exams and other business including payment of student grants. Authorities fixed the final closure date at Saturday 23 August. But, reported Le Soleil of Dakar, though most students left on time, others were "dragging their feet".

"If we're still on campus, it's partly because of disruptions this year, and especially the delay in paying our grants to cover the holidays," Ismaïla Diédhou, a student from the humanities and human sciences faculty, told Le Soleil. "There are still long queues at the payment offices; many of us still haven't received our grants, and they want us to go away," he said last week.

An official in charge of student affairs told Le Soleil that students would no longer be able to use the excuse of non-payment of grants to stay on campus because they were moving the payments office elsewhere.

The next day, Le Soleil reported that water and electricity supplies to student accommodation blocks had been cut off.

Meanwhile, the Agence de Presse Sénégalaise of Dakar reported Boubacar Diop, who since 2003 has been Cheikh Anta Diop's first mediator, as saying in his final report that "the only protests recorded [this year] were either due to delays in payment of salaries, or violence started by students or administrative and technical staff (PATS) demanding the government authorities respect their commitments".

The government and university authorities must "establish a disbursement system clear to everyone concerned, and honour the agreements announced with the banks for modernising methods of payment" for student grants and salaries for PATS, he said. This measure would have the advantage of helping prevent "violent and non-violent actions linked to the delays in payment of grants, benefits or salaries" of students and non-teaching staff.

Sud Quotidien of Dakar reported Diop as announcing that, as another measure to keep unrest at bay, a limit should be placed on the number of students admitted to the faculty of humanities and human sciences - "which has always been a social bomb", according to the paper. Instead of 8,637 who had qualified for entry, only 2,000 would be accepted.
Original reports in French on the site