Student protests in Burundi and Cote d'Ivoire

Student unrest has broken out in Burundi, where students went on strike over reform of their grant system. And in Cote d'Ivoire, students have been protesting over lack of housing - 18 months after universities reopened after two years of closure.

In Burundi, students continued to strike after an ultimatum by the authorities had expired, reported Radio France Internationale or RFI.

The dispute began in mid-March when students entitled to grants at Burundi's public and private universities started a strike in protest against a reform that changed the conditions for allocation, which would deprive most of them of their grants, according to the broadcaster.

Minister for Higher Education Joseph Butore reacted to the strikes by closing public universities, excluding student representatives for two years and giving students three days to re-enrol and sign an agreement not to strike in future.

His order was largely ignored, with only about 650 out of 17,000 students at the University of Burundi and Ecole Normale Superieure returning to courses, mainly those at the end of their studies, reported RFI.

"This demand will not be heard [because] the students are determined. Because if these government measures are introduced those of us from poor families shall be excluded from university campuses," student representative Epitace Ndayambaje told RFI.

After a further period of five days was given to allow students to sign on, the government annulled the university year. Only 191 out of 8,400 first and second year students at the University of Burundi had re-enrolled, reported RFI.

The minister extended the enrolment period for a second time, but the students seemed determined to make the government give in.

"For us to return to our classes the government must take a decision to suspend temporarily the presidential order as well as the order reorganising the grant allocation; but the minister must also cancel his order dismissing the students," Ndayambaje said.

University of Burundi Vice-rector Paul Banderembako appealed to the students' sense of responsibility, reported RFI: "We are aware that the students have not responded to our request. So what is going to happen? It is difficult enough to negotiate with someone you cannot see. It is essential that, first, the students return to the lecture halls."

Meanwhile, angry students at the Universite Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Cocody, Cote d'Ivoire, demonstrated to demand the opening of renovated student accommodation, 18 months after the reopening of universities in Cote d'Ivoire, reported Radio France Internationale.

The country's universities were closed for two years after they were severely damaged in violence following the disputed presidential election in 2010. They reopened in September 2012.

But at Cocody only 3,800 of the 6,000 places in student residences are available, although renovation of the campuses finished more than a year ago, according to the RFI broadcast.

A housing official told RFI that the "door is open" and authorities would start housing the students on 8 April.

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