Academic union rejects higher education reforms

A week after Senegal’s Presidential Council on Higher Education Reforms took place, the university lecturers’ union SAES reacted against the changes approved, saying there could be “no peace in the university sector” because the government had violated an agreement signed in March 2011.

The reforms, approved by the council presided over by President Macky Sall on 14 August, followed a national consultation on the sector earlier this year initiated by Higher Education Minister Mary Teuw Niane.

The council passed 11 decisions, each governed by a number of directives, to:
  • • Focus higher education towards science, technology and short professionally oriented courses.
  • • Place ICTs at the heart of the higher education and research system to improve access and efficiency.
  • • Improve management of the higher education and research system and reform the governance of public higher education institutions.
  • • Establish a culture of peace within public higher education institutions.
  • • Promote the careers of teaching, research, administrative, technical and service personnel.
  • • Allow students to be participants in their education, promote their success and improve their living conditions.
  • • Strengthen university management to encourage access, diversify studies and guarantee the quality of higher education.
  • • Give a new impetus to research and innovation.
  • • Open the Senegalese area of higher education and research to Africa and the world.
  • • Improve the management of universities’ own budgets and resources by introducing modern, transparent procedures and processes.
  • • Invest in higher education and research as a national priority.
In a column published in Le Soleil after the council meeting, Minister of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Economy Cheikh Mamadou Abiboulaye Dieye praised the reforms.

He said that one of the flagship measures ordered by the presidential council had been the state’s financial contribution to higher education and research. This amounted to FCFA115 billion (US$233.5 million) in 2014, FCFA120 billion in 2015, FCFA130 billion in 2016 and FCFA141 billion in 2017.

“This is a substantial sum that has never been invested in the higher education sector since independence. Undoubtedly its effectiveness should allow the state to tackle the real problems of higher education in Senegal and to introduce lasting, indeed permanent, solutions,” said Dieye.

“If we want to be in the forefront of African higher education, the area of study that is the university must break with the past to be, through the action of all, an area of peace, studies and achievement. Science and the humanities must be available to all, at university.”

But the reform procedure was condemned by the Syndicat Autonome des Enseignants du Supérieur, or SAES, reported Le Soleil.

A week after the council meeting, Seydi Ababacar Ndiaye, general secretary of SAES, said: “We have been treated as nobodies. We had only the same amount of time to speak as anybody else. It’s unacceptable.”

Most important to SAES was that the 11 presidential decisions had not been debated, reported Le Soleil.

“The lack of preparation was obvious. Everything was done in haste. The president announced the decisions and immediately afterwards the session was over. The stakeholders had no opportunity to give their point of view,” said Ndiaye.

He placed most of the responsibility on Minister Niane. “The president of the republic should know that this minister is not the man who should develop the sector,” he said.

The union would prepare a memorandum discussing the council’s decisions, which would give members the opportunity to give their views, reported Le Soleil.

Ndiaye’s SAES colleague Moustapha Sall believed that by acting as it did the government indicated it did not want peace with lecturers. He demanded that the government respect the agreement signed on 21 March 2011, and its commitments on diplomas, university budgets, lecturers’ pensions and housing allowances.

“Without respect of the terms of this agreement, there will be no peace in the university sector,” said Sall.

The SAES also criticised orders contained in the new reforms on course guidance for students and on the Virtual University of Senegal, which the union believed were heading towards the privatisation of public higher education institutions.

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