MADAGASCAR: Lost academic year could follow crisis

The political crisis that has engulfed Madagascar over the past two months has led to fears of a lost academic year, with no date fixed for universities to reopen and thousands of students waiting to enrol.

Last week, reported L'Express de Madagascar, students were returning to their university lodgings for the start of the new year, which was due to start on 3 March but had not been announced by the Ministry of Education.

Following a meeting on 24 February of teachers at the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at Antananarivo, Madagascar's major university, the dean Solo Raharinanahary issued a statement saying that "the functioning of the university and enrolments are disrupted. We strongly fear a lost year if the situation is not resolved".

The two-month political crisis, which involved a trial of strength between President Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelena, now-deposed mayor of Antananarivo, resulted in over 100 dead in violent clashes.

The Education Ministry said the outcome of the current crisis, especially that prevailing in Antananarivo, would determine the start of the academic year. "It is still difficult to give an exact date for the moment," L'Express reported Romain Klébert Ndrianjafy, general secretary of the ministry, as saying.

One reason for delay given by the ministry was the safety of the students. "Parents are faced with the question of their children's security, especially those under 18 years, and even those over 21 years. They will hesitate to send their children to Antananarivo," said Ndrianjafy.

An unnamed politician quoted by L'Express said the ministry seemed to be trying to avoid a student movement which was typical in the country. "Since 1972, in 1991 and 2002, academics have always figured in political conflicts. That's why the ministry is avoiding university involvement in the current situation."

Last week, as students reassembled, Tendry Rakotoniaina, a student representative, told L'Express: "Eighty percent of students have already returned to their rooms, but have nothing to do. Most are short of supplies, but they have no choice but to wait because going home would generate more expense."