SENEGAL: Stormy run-up to UCAD's new academic year

Tension was high at Senegal's University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) during the run-up to the new academic year, with widespread discontent among the 1,500 lecturers - many of whom were owed payments from last year - reported Wal Fadjri of Dakar. The paper also said a freeze on staff recruitment at the university was leading to an ageing teaching body.

"Senegal is floundering in the floods, and the university has its head in the water," warned Cheikhou Issa Sylla, General Secretary of the teachers' union Sudes. "The situation is serious. Two weeks before the new academic year, huge clouds are gathering, and threatening to rain in torrents." He warned that "the teachers will not accept starting a new university year while owed last year's back payments", reported Wal Fadjri.

Sudes estimated the government owed hundreds of millions of francs CFA (1,000 FCFA = US$2.25) in research bonuses, allowances and overtime payments; in addition there were unpaid travel expenses for assignments and study trips.

"Lecturers benefiting from study trips for the period from 1 August to 30 September 2009 have been left stranded in Dakar, waiting for their daily allowances which have not yet been paid," said Sudes officials. With the academic year about to start, they asked, what time was there left for research?

In a separate report Wal Fadjri said that UCAD's teaching force was already ageing, with few appointments being made now, before a total recruitment freeze. Staff of a certain rank were often not replaced when they retired at 65, creating gaps when hand-overs were being planned.

At a press conference, Sudes sounded the alarm about the situation which risked depopulating the university of quality teachers, with whole waves of departures due to retirement during the next five to 10 years if nothing was done to replace them, said the paper.

The union urged the university to create the conditions to recruit teachers of quality and in quantity with the aim of introducing new blood, with a funding policy for doctoral schools, research grants and regularisation of temporary workers of value.