Disruptive dispute continues at Koudougou University

The crisis at Burkina Faso’s University of Koudougou over the exclusion of students and campus disorder continues, with students denouncing an ‘anti-student campaign’ by the lecturers’ union Synadec, which went on strike to protest against denigration of the teaching profession and violence on campuses.

In spite of an attempt at reconciliation and visits to the university by Minister for Higher Education Moussa Outtara in October, the two sides have not come to any agreement, and both gave press conferences to stake out their positions, air grievances and make demands.

A row over disciplinary measures against 16 students, 14 of whom were expelled temporarily or permanently from the university, provoked the dispute. Students demonstrated and went on strike and Outtara, accompanied by another minister, went to Koudougou to mediate.

Outtara made it clear on a second visit that he was in favour of reducing the students’ punishments. But lecturers issued a statement listing their grievances and demanding the punishments should be retained.

On 26 November Synadec called a press conference to announce that it was calling a 72-hour strike to protest against denigration of the teaching profession and violence on campuses, and in support of Professor Mahamoudou Oubda who had allegedly been attacked by excluded students, reported Zoodomail of Ouagadougou.

The union believed the punishments were “just, measured and legitimate” and that “all education entailed obligations, and wishing to dissociate education and submission to these obligations would destroy educational action”, reported Zoodomail.

In response to those who thought the punishments were excessive, Synadec said there were official texts that laid down such sanctions. A university must be “an island of free thought, a symbol of maturity and of an opening mind”, it said.

Synadec also demanded strengthened public universities through such means as effective elections for university presidents, increased infrastructure, improved teacher-student ratios, upgrading of lecturers’ salaries and withdrawal of planned rules for their evaluation by their administrative superiors.

Two days after Synadec, the Coordination of Pupils and Students of Burkina, or CEEB, also held a press conference, to “denounce a campaign of disinformation, of demobilisation and of the ‘poisoning’ of authority”, reported Burkina24 of Ouagadougou.

Among issues raised were two student deaths presumed to be caused by border and military officials.

Concerning the expulsions of the 14 students at Koudougou, Mamadou Fayama, president of CEEB, said the students would not be satisfied until those expelled were reinstated. He said CEEB possessed a recording of an interview carried out by a colleague of Oubda who confirmed he had not been hit or injured by students.

Fayama considered the Synadec strike to be serious and a “dangerous precedent”, reported Burkina24. He asked Synadec to “pull itself together” and not play the game of a “fascist” regime.

He said that “the ball is in the authorities’ court”, and CEEB was determined to take all action to shed light on the deaths of the two students, and for the total withdrawal of the excluded students’ punishments.

A "Declaration on the Crisis at the University of Koudougou" was published jointly by more than 20 trade unions, reported Sidwaya.

This called for the students’ punishments to the lifted; for political and university authorities to support dialogue and consultation to find solutions to the ills affecting universities, especially Koudougou; and for the authorities to ask the National Association of Burkinabé Students to reexamine the situation, to resolve the problems of Koudougou students.

The declaration also warned the authorities against taking repressive action.

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