CAMEROON: Unpaid teachers, homeless students

Teachers in the arts and social sciences faculty at the University of Douala, who went on strike this month in support of pay claims, some dating back a decade, 'provisionally' suspended their action after receiving payment for 2009, reported Quotidien Mutations of Yaoundé.

Meanwhile, some students had only two weeks' notice that their accommodation blocks were going to be closed for renovation at the beginning of November, said the paper.

The lecturers called a strike on 19 October for unpaid remuneration including allowances and research bonuses for 2009-10; expenses related to examination sessions for that year and 2008-09; payments for supervision of research students and as members of juries, some going back about 10 years, said Quotidien Mutations.

The strikers raised other frustrations, saying senior lecturers and professors had not had the same delays and their faculty was the only one to have such problems. Some believed the non-payment of their allowances was a deliberate act on the part of the dean, and denounced lack of dialogue with him, said the paper.

The faculty dean, Professor Nsame Mbongo, declined to speak to the paper, but a senior university representative played down the action as carried out by a 'small group'.

He said the dean had posted up a notice for the teachers' attention - though a striker claimed this had been backdated and had really only been signed the previous day. The representative said charges paid by new students would be used to "pay [ the teachers] what we can".

The next day, reported Quotidien Mutations, the teachers provisionally suspended the strike after they received research allowance payments for the academic year 2009-10, which they considered a goodwill gesture, said the paper. The university management was also starting negotiations with the teachers, who pointed out a major part of their claims remained unsatisfied.

Earlier in the month, some students learned they had just two weeks to leave their rooms, following a notice from the rector Bruno Bekolo Ebe that their residences would be closed for renovation of the dilapidated buildings from 3 November.

According to Angie, a student interviewed in Quotidien Mutations, there had been no water in the rooms for three months, and occupants had to get supplies downstairs, though many taps were blocked. Electrical connections were dangerous and there was a serious risk of fire.

But many students were against the closure which, Quotidien Mutations reported, would make it very difficult for them to find somewhere to live in time for the new university year.

They had been away during the summer holiday when the first notice was posted in August, and there was little time to find alternative accommodation - which in addition would cost between FCFA12,000 and 30,000 (US$25.50 - US$63.80) or more for a room of eight square metres, compared with FCFA9,000 on campus.