CHAD-CONGO: Students protest over grants and fees

Student protests against non-payment of grants have broken out in N'djamena, Chad, while in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, students angered by fee increases demanded the resignation of their university's management committee, according to press reports.

Nine police officers were among 28 injured in demonstrations by students from the University of N'djamena, which resulted in 150 arrests, reported Radio Netherlands Worldwide, quoting the French news agency AFP.

However, Minister for Higher Education Ahmat Djidda Mahamat told AFP that most of the arrests were not of students but of "individuals who mixed with them and committed acts of vandalism".

The students, who had gone on strike on 14 September claiming six months' grant arrears, marched through the capital calling on high school students to join them, according to an AFP journalist. Police intervened and their vehicles were attacked, said the report.

The previous day police had broken up a student march on its way to the higher education ministry. A doctor said that 28 demonstrators with tear-gas injuries had been registered by the hospital's emergency department.

Student union official Sandjibeye Freeman said the students would not resume their courses until the grants had been paid. But Mahamat said the government had paid the arrears, and deplored that a small minority were preventing the great majority from following their studies.

In Kinshasa, students of the Université Pédagogique Nationale (UPN) protested against a decision by the management committee to increase university fees for 2011-12, reported La Prospérité of Kinshasa.

La Prospérité said that during the protests the students had ransacked the university's hospital centre and administrative offices, and had burned tyres at all entrances to the university.

A first-year student told the paper fees were rising "from $190 to $375", and that students were asking the authorities to come to their aid.

The next day, reported La Prospérité, in spite of a decision by UPN rector Edouard Tshisungu to suspend negotiations on fixing the fees, the students issued a demand for the unconditional resignation of all members of the management committee.

They claimed there had been several irregularities by the committee, including "always proceeding to increase enrolment, re-registration and academic fees, and a tendency to favour a preferred group of students when there was an inter-student dispute".

Student coordinator Francis Lukunku told the paper the main aim was "departure of the management committee. We have had enough. We are not against anyone, but we are just defending the interests of science".

Lukunku said that since the country was in a pre-election period "we don't want to disrupt the process that will determine the future of our country. That's why we are protecting what is public. To prove it, the renovation works are taking place without problem. We're not attacking just anything".

But while the university's entrances were open and order was restored, Lukunku said activities on the campus would remain suspended until a new committee was in place, with which students would negotiate.

La Prospérité reported that it seemed likely most students were counting on the departure of the management committee, but some feared that if it remained in place they could be excluded from the university.

The paper quoted a student who said another student was in hospital after being injured by militia controlled by the management committee, and the dispute was not only about lowering fees.

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