MADAGASCAR: Medical students demand new year

There is still no date fixed for Madagascar's new university year - which should have started in March - following the dispute over delays in payments of allowances and overtime between the lecturers' and researchers' union SECES and the education ministry. Now, medical students have taken a lead in demanding resumption of their studies.

Midi-Madagasikara said the medical students had demonstrated at the main gate of the University of Antananarivo for several days, the first students openly to demand and demonstrate for a start to the 2010-11 year. They also called for rapid resolution of the dispute.

Students feared a lost academic year or a 'marathon' year which would compromise the quality of their studies, said Midi-Madagasikara.

They had postponed a march to the higher education ministry in the hope of rallying students from other faculties to join them, but without much success so far, said the paper.

Andry Rajoelina, Madagascar's transition President, who was inaugurating new dormitories at the university, told the demonstrating students he had brought together the prime minister and the higher education minister to find the best way to resurrect the university year, reported L'Express.

The newspaper quoted Minister of Higher Education and Research Antoine Zafera Rabesa as saying he would make an announcement, with SECES, about the new academic year the following week. Some details remained to be decided before releasing the university calendar. "I shall meet find a suitable outcome to this obstacle," he said.

But on Friday 29 April, reported Radio France International, the lecturers staged a sit-in to demonstrate their determination not to give in over the dispute with the ministry, and to reject an imminent return to work unless their chief claim over payments was satisfied.

"In its favour, the union can argue that it has kept to its side of the agreement made in January to complete the 2010 university year as quickly as possible," said RFI.

The authorities said they would sort out the situation but could not give a date. It could prove difficult for the state to make the back payments owed to some 1,300 university teachers and researchers in the country's six universities, said RFI.

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* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original report.