Prime minister stoned during university visit

Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister Luc-Adolphe Tiao was stoned by protesting students during a fact-finding visit to the University of Ouagadougou this month.

Le Pays of Ouagadougou reported that Tiao had wanted to "prove his openness of mind and availability" but the "very bitter" students had clearly shown there was still some way to go to build a university that satisfied everyone concerned.

The government’s efforts deserved recognition, especially Tiao’s unhesitating visit to see the reality for himself, and stemmed from a true desire to resolve the problems in universities with social dialogue, said Le Pays.

But the living and studying conditions of Burkinabé students in general, and those at Ouagadougou in particular, had long been insecure and stressful, with education "based on failure", said Le Pays.

The introduction of LMD (licence-masters-doctorate), the system of three, five and eight years’ higher education based on the Bologna process, had been too hasty. In addition there was student dissatisfaction over a number of issues, demotivation of the teaching workforce and inadequate facilities and infrastructure.

Such circumstances did not excuse the actions and jeers that marked the prime minister’s visit, which were reprehensible, said the paper. The students had shown immaturity and would not gain the sympathy of serious people, nor was such an atmosphere conducive to dialogue.

Tiao had planned to spend the day talking to lecturers’ and students’ unions, other members of staff and the governing boards of the two Ouagadougou universities, and to have lunch with students, reported Fasozine.

But while he was delivering his address, a power cut intervened, reported Fasozine. Students became angry when a generator was brought in so the ceremony could continue.

“We’re used to breakdowns, but nobody would dream of providing us with a generator. We just wait in the heat until the current comes back,” they shouted.

Tiao and his delegation waited until the power returned, and students became angrier when the prime minister announced that he would shorten his speech. He continued until a second power cut brought the ceremony to an end.

Tiao intended to have fresh talks with other members of the university in another room, reported Fasozine, but the students’ anger was mounting further and soon afterwards they started throwing stones at the prime minister. They also blocked the road outside for about an hour, and burned tyres.

Meanwhile, students at the Centre Universitaire Polytechnique de Dédougou called a 48-hour strike earlier this month, the first since the institution opened last April. They were protesting against lack of student accommodation, healthcare and ICT facilities, teachers, a library and a university restaurant, reported L’Observateur Paalga of Ouagadougou.

Serge Antoine Nombré and Bassiniki Ouattara, representatives of ANEB, the National Association of Burkinabé Students, said they had called the stoppage having received no response after bringing the dismal conditions for students to the attention of the authorities.

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