TOGO: Protests against 'merit' grants shut universities

The government of Togo "temporarily" closed the universities of Lomé and Kara last week following student protests against a new system of grants that will be paid to students on merit, rather than to everyone as previously.

Police used teargas to break up student demonstrations against the new system at the two universities, which are attended by more than 60,000 students, reported Agence France Presse, or AFP.

A government statement broadcast on national television said: "Faced with the severity of actions within the two campuses, and to prevent further outbreaks, the government has decided to close temporarily from today [8 December] the universities of Lomé and Kara," reported AFP.

The government approved the new rules to award benefits and grants to the best students rather than to all students at the end of November, said the agency. Students received CFA20,000 (US$40) a term, it said.

"Groups of organised students have maintained a climate of tension at the universities of Lomé and Kara for several days to protest against the new system of grants and benefits. These demonstrations of discontent have escalated in a worrying way since yesterday," said the government statement.

"In Kara, demonstrators have carried out acts of vandalism in the town, committing assaults against the administrative authorities and damaging public buildings as well as private houses," it added.

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