Protesting students self-immolate, threaten suicide

Three students set themselves on fire this month in mounting protests against new selection procedures for masters degrees, which have excluded many students from further studies. The students were from the department of geography at the University Cheikh Anta Diop of Dakar. They were taken to hospital with serious burns.

They were among students who started protesting in January, claiming the right to admission to masters courses.

The protesters stepped up their action in late February by going on a hunger strike, resulting in five of them being admitted to hospital after a few weeks, reported the French newspaper Le Figaro.

The university’s rector, Safiou Ndiaye, had said that under the LMD (licence-masters-doctorate) reform, based on the Bologna process structure of three, five and eight years’ higher education, the students did not qualify to continue their studies, and there was no question of changing this decision, reported Cesti Info.

“Have you seen in Senegal or any other country in the world that one can go back on exam decisions? The texts have been scrupulously respected,” he was reported as saying during a press conference. He added that the students had not understood the new rules of LMD, which was introduced in the faculty in 2010.

Le Figaro reported Diallo, a worker at a human rights association, as saying that the action of the students who had set themselves on fire hid a greater problem – the distress of a generation.

Since the election in April 2012 of President Macky Sall, young people had been hoping for change. Discontent was rumbling and if the rector continued to be so intransigent, students had promised that attempts to self-immolate would continue.

Meanwhile, 48 students at the Centre National des Techniciens en Agriculture et en Génie Rurale in Ziguinchor started a hunger strike this month in support of demands to be allocated jobs in the public sector, reported Sud Quotidien.

The students had met Minister of Agriculture Abdoulaye Baldé, who told them he could not grant their demands this year because the state had already made its plans before promising to negotiate with them, said the paper.

After the abortive meeting the students set out on a march to Dakar, which was halted by gendarmes who dispersed them with teargas in the suburbs of the capital. The students then made threats to carry out an ‘unlimited hunger strike and suicides’, reported Sud Quotidien.

The students’ representative Ousseynou Kane said: “We shall carry out a hunger strike and as long as we are not satisfied we shall not stop. Even if it means death. We are ready to commit suicide,” reported Sud Quotidien. “[We want] only employment in the public sector.”

The students claimed that there was discrimination between the national training centres and that students from those specialising in fish, water and forests had been recruited, but they had not. They considered it an aberration that “in a country like ours which wants to make agriculture its driving development force there is a lack of human resources”.

Kane added that the agricultural workforce was ageing and no recruitments had been made in recent years. “That’s serious for a country that wants to achieve self-sufficiency in food,” he said.

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