MADAGASCAR: Protests still disrupting universities

Strikes, protests and disputes between students, sometimes violent and ethnically based, have continued to disrupt universities in Madagascar - notably Maninday-Toliara, Antananarivo-Ankatso and Barikadimy-Toamasina - report local papers.

Courses had been suspended for three weeks by the beginning of October in the faculty of law, economics, management and sociology of the University of Maninday at Toliara, with students on strike demanding dismissal of assistant lecturers, reported Midi-Madagasikara of Antananarivo.

Student representatives had met the university president to make their claims, but no solution had been found, said the paper.

It explained that the strike was the result of several grievances within the faculty. These included the appointment of a French dean - a post that should have been filled through an election by the teachers - who had introduced changes that did not suit all students and staff.

Students were also angry that they were being taught by assistant lecturers who, they complained, were not competent. In common with other universities, reported Midi-Madagasikara, there was a "very reduced" number of teachers at Toliara, which could have major consequences for the quality of education on offer at the public university.

For the time being teachers from private institutions were filling the gaps at Maninday, but the paper said this did not seem to be enough to resolve the problem.

At Ankatso campus of Antananarivo there were clashes between students from rival associations, Mafami (from Antananarivo) and Bamami (from Ambatondrazaka), reported Midi-Madagasikara.

What started as a "simple altercation" between two students turned violent, and discontent continued when one group thought the other had been treated more leniently.

The Mafami students demanded the dismissal of the director of student affairs, who was from Ambatondrazaka, then locked him up with three other people for three-quarters of an hour, and closed the administrative offices.

Although the director promised negotiations to try to find a solution, violence flared again between the two groups, and students from other regions joined in, protesting at the locked offices. There were "verbal exchanges, blows and minor injuries - nothing very serious, in the end, except the threats were quite impressive!" reported Midi-Madagasikara.

But the next day the Mafami students locked the offices again, and the situation degenerated between them and the rest of the students, said Midi-Madagasikara. Last week, after it was decided a senior official would be dismissed, the disruption died down.

However, an unrelated protest on the campus arose over three months' non-payment of student grants, reported Midi-Madagasikara.

Students quoted in the paper said: "We started university year five months ago but so far we have received only two months' grants. We really need these benefits because our costs keep rising. For most of us, our parents who live in regions far away from Antananarivo, inevitably do not have the resources to send us enough money every month."

The students said they understood the money was available, but none had been paid. They demanded an explanation.

Last week, Midi-Madagasikara reported new violence had erupted in Ankatso's faculty of law, economics, management and sociology.

Exchanges of insults between students were followed by an act of vandalism outside the law students' association office, which led to a sit-in by the law students. "Verbal and physical exchanges" between students took place before efforts were made to find a peaceful solution, said the paper.

On 10 September a fight at the University of Barikadimy in Toamasina between students from the south-east of the country and others from Antisiranana ended in the death of a student, four seriously injured and 32 arrests.

The university was closed for the following month. An agreement signed by representatives of students, personnel, police, the local authority and the ministry fixed last Monday for its reopening, reported Midi-Madagasikara.

However, students from the south did not enter the agreement, though they expressed the wish to continue their studies as they wanted to make clear they were not preventing resumption of the university's operations, said the paper.

The southern students were demanding dismissal of the university's president, Professor Horace Gatien, whom they accused of failing to recognise the tragic events of 10 September or visiting students in hospital, reported Courrier de Madagascar of Antananarivo.

The Courrier reported other sources as asserting the university had taken care of the injured and that Gatien had received threats because he was from the north. Word was that any replacement would have to be from the south or south-east of the country: "The murderous affair is taking on a political and national scope and turn," said the Courrier.

Related link
MADAGASCAR: Student protests hit universities

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