MADAGASCAR: Student unrest, and research unused

Unrest has erupted again in universities in Madagascar, with a new strike and demonstrations at Ankatso campus in Antananarivo and three students arrested at the University of Maninday Toliara in protests against non-payment of grants. Meanwhile, an official of the Academy of Sciences for Developing Countries has claimed that much Madagascan academic research "remains in drawers" and is wasted because the state does not make use of it.

At Ankatso, students began their protest on 7 November by staging a sit-in at the university entrance, demanding payment of grant arrears dating back to September and reimbursement of enrolment fees, reported L'Express de Madagascar.

Following a notice from the presidency of Antananarivo University banning demonstrations on campus, the students went outside where security forces were ready. Calm was restored after negotiations, said L'Express, although students were planning to continue their protest.

Midi-Madagascar of Antananarivo, which said all universities in the country were in the same position regarding arrears, reported the university's authorities as saying the budget for grants had not yet been received, so it had not been possible to pay the students.

Students resumed their protests two days later, reported L'Express. After blocking the entrance to the university they agreed to move so ministers and other dignitaries could enter to attend an official ceremony. Then they took to the streets, where stone-throwing demonstrators were tear-gassed by security forces.

The students returned to the campus where seven wood kiosks used for selling goods were ransacked. After it was known that intruders were causing trouble, the students stopped demonstrating and called off their strike. Dina Razanadranaivo, leader of the science students' association, said the university's president had told him their claim was under consideration by the prime minister.

At Toliara, three students were arrested following demonstrations organised by management students over the right to receive grants. They were also demanding replacement of two lecturers who they claimed were not competent.

Meanwhile, at a conference devoted to 'Scientific research and young researchers', Rakotondramaka, a communications officer at the Academy of Sciences for Developing Countries (TWAS), said that many dissertations and theses produced by Madagascans remained shut in drawers, unused by the government or business, reported L'Express.

"The majority of research centres, such as the National Centre for Oceanographic Research or the Ambohidempona Research Centre for Seismography, are dependent on the state. So researchers just become simple civil servants, the fruits of their research remain in files and are not given any value," said Rakotondramaka.

Nor were business operators interested, he said. "[The research is] sometimes regarded as unreliable. But research involves a long process that necessitates perfection and financial support."

A researcher from the National Institute of Nuclear Sciences and Technologies attending the conference added that research carried out in other countries was used most widely in Madagascar.

If Madagascans made a discovery, constraints emerged. "The use of special earth to renovate secondary roads has been abandoned because of political-economic factors, although this research for Madagascan citizens required [financial] support," claimed Rakotondramada.

Raoelia Andriambololona, president of TWAS in Madagascar, said the aim of the conference was to show the state that there were researchers who had produced at least 10 scientific publications. "They need help, not only in their own interests, but especially for Madagascar," he said.

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