Fees hike as universities prepare to reopen after years of disruption

Côte d’Ivoire’s universities, disrupted or closed for the past two or three years, are due to reopen on 3 September – but critics are protesting against increases in fees of up to 5,000%.

Presidents of the country’s public universities announced the new fees in July. Charges for students studying for their licence (bachelor equivalent) will rise from CFA6,000 (US$11) to CFA100,000, for masters courses to CFA200,000 and for doctorates to CFA300,000 – increases of between 1,600% and 5,000%.

The university presidents explained that fees had not risen for 32 years, since 1980, reported Radio France International. They also believed students should contribute to paying off the costs of CFA100 billion for university renovations.

The country’s President Alassane Ouattara closed the universities of Cocody and Abobo-Adjamé, both located in Abidjan, in December 2011. But because of serious disruption and damage before, during and after the disputed 2010 presidential election, students lost two or three years’ higher education.

Officially the reason for the closures was for renovation of the campuses and reorganisation of the higher education system, but there were claims that the closures were made for political reasons.

Laurent Akoun, representative of the centre-left Front Populaire Ivoirien party, issued a statement published in Notre Voie, criticising in detail the administration of the entire education system under the Ouattara regime, which he said was “accelerating the death of higher education and scientific research in the country”.

In addition to the closure of two of the three leading universities, the authorities were “aggravating and multiplying problems by the sleaziest administrative management”. In addition to the fees hike, among problems the FPI listed were:
  • • Irregular and late payment of salaries and bonuses.
  • • Illegal administrative decisions – the minister of higher education and research ignored existing laws and regulations, including the appointment of the presidents of Cocody, Abobo-Adjamé and Bouaké universities.
  • • Illegal expulsion of 5,800 students.
  • • An online pre-enrolment system run by the ministry charging CFA2,000 for new students, instead of a free one organised by the universities.
  • • Destruction and closure of university property, eviction of students and use of the sites for other purposes, including housing the military.
Lidho, the Ivorian League of Human Rights, called on heads of higher education institutions to “review seriously the enrolment fees in public universities”, reported Fraternité Matin.

In a statement, Lidho’s president René Hokou Légré said the decade of troubles and internal tensions had increased 'pauperisation', the high cost of living and especially youth unemployment. “The decision taken by the presidents of the university councils is a serious violation of the right to education,” he said.

Notre Voie said that during his presidential campaign, Ouattara had promised to construct 65,000 school classes and five universities in five years.

“One of the first decisions taken by Alassane Ouattara was to close the universities. That was the first blow against Ivorian education.”

It pointed out that while students now had to pay between CFA1,000 and CFA3,000 in enrolment fees, the minimum wage of CFA6,000 had not been increased. “The Ouattara power de facto excludes the children of poor people. And yet Alassane Ouattara promised free education for all, including the poor,” said Notre Voie.