Crisis at top university after student dies in clash

Senegal’s leading university, Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar or UCAD, was in crisis last week after a student was killed in a violent confrontation with police during protests over non-payment of grants and other grievances linked to government reforms.

Following the death from shooting of Bassirou Faye, a student at the faculty of science and technology, student leaders last week called for an unlimited strike, saying they would only talk to President Macky Sall if Higher Education Minister Mary Teuw Niane and Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo were dismissed, reported Walfadjri of Dakar.

The confrontation started on 14 August, when police broke up demonstrations of students with teargas, reported Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, or APS, of Dakar. The students had just called a 72-hour strike after meeting Niane to demand their grants after nearly a year of non-payment.

Other student grievances dated from the beginning of the academic year following government plans to introduce ‘LMD’ – licence-master-doctorat – the system based on the Bologna process of three, five and eight years’ higher education.

These included raising student fees from FCFA7,500 (US$15) to between FCFA25,000 and FCFA75,000 depending on degree level, revised criteria for receiving grants and opposition to selection for masters courses.

Radio France International, or RFI, reported that the confrontation between students and police started on Thursday 14 August, with stone-throwing by students who had not received their grants for 10 months.

The violence lasted all afternoon, with police entering student accommodation and smashing computers and television sets belonging to the students.

During the confrontation Faye was shot and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead from his wounds, reported APS.

The following day was calm, but there was much damage and hundreds of injuries as well as the death of Faye, reported Le Soleil of Dakar.

There were no police on the campus, but on the previous day they had vandalised 114 student rooms out of 118, there was a smell of burning and traces of blood on the walls, clothes were scattered around and computers and equipment smashed.

Student and union representatives and human rights groups condemned the police action and students called for suspension of courses and exams until the truth was known, reported Sud Quotidien.

The higher education union Syndicat Autonome de l’Enseignement Supérieur, or SAES, also called for the dismissal of the two ministers, reported APS.

The SAES coordinator at UCAD, Yankhouba Seydi, said: “The authorities must face up to their responsibilities. First, and we demand this strongly, it is necessary for the ministers of the interior and of higher education to be sacked immediately from their functions.”

He also criticised the “unjustified presence of police on the campus”, reported APS.

Sidy Ababacar Ndiaye, permanent secretary of SAES, denounced repeated abuse of university rights by the police, reported RFI.

“Since last 21 November the director has authorised police presence in the university, in order to terrorise the students,” he said. He called for payment of the grants to be made because “most students come from disadvantaged families in rural areas”.

The police department said it would do everything to cast light on the situation, reported Walfadjri.

But according to information relayed by online press, it said, “the police had checked all the individuals on guard duty at UCAD on Thursday 14 August, and it emerged that none of them had weapons from which the bullets had been fired”.

President Macky Sall issued a warning to those who wanted to create instability out of the situation. “There are people lying low in the shadows who think only of setting the university on fire and of blood, thinking it is the best way to destabilise the country,” he said.

The government would ensure the security of individuals and property in all circumstances and the government was at the disposal of the university community for dialogue and consultation concerning the problems, said Sall.

Last week at a general meeting the students called for the removal of Niane and Diallo as a necessary condition before they would open dialogue with the state authorities, and for an indefinite strike until the ministers had gone, reported Sud Quotidien.

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