Law to improve academic status, after months of protest

After months of union strikes and protests against the government of Senegal’s ‘lack of respect for signed agreements’, the national assembly adopted laws improving the status of university lecturers and living and working conditions for students.

Higher Education Minister Mary Teuw Niane has also announced that the new University of Sine-Saloum will open in October 2016.

The biggest higher education union SAES – Syndicat autonome de l’enseignement supérieur – continued protests up to the day before the national assembly votes. Joined by other education unions, members demonstrated in the capital Dakar against the government’s failure to honour the agreements it had made, Le Soleil reported.

Improved status for academics

Le Soleil also revealed that the legislation, which cost the government FCFA3 billion (US$5 million), introduced major innovations including abolishing restrictions on the nationality of teaching staff and the lecturer grade of ‘maître-assistant’, and reorganisation of the grades of all categories of lecturers.

Niane said university teachers’ employment was now governed by a more attractive statute aimed at halting the brain drain, and that the new law would boost the drawing power of the job, according to Le Soleil.

Authorising the recruitment of academics of other nationalities would strengthen the reputation of the West African education hub and Senegal would welcome the best brains, said Niane.

Abolishing the rule that candidates for professorships must be aged at least 30 years old would allow young academics to advance more rapidly, and doing away with the grade of maître-assistant would introduce flexibility to the career structure.

Niane believed the new law would strengthen Senegal’s place in CAMES – the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education –and fit the ‘LMD’ reform of three, five and eight years' higher education based on the Bologna process.

The law also raised academic salaries and pensions.

Improved student conditions

The national assembly also approved the creation of new regional university centres for student support, or CROUS – Centres régionaux des oeuvres universitaires sociales – at Ziguinchor, Thiès and Bambey, with the aim of providing a better balance between students' studies and living and social conditions, reported Le Soleil.

Niane said the legislation would have a considerable impact on students’ conditions of study in the universities concerned as it would bring students in closer contact with CROUS centres, the management of which was currently centralised in Dakar.

University of Sine-Saloum

Meanwhile, Niane announced that the University of Sine-Saloum, Elhadj Ibrahima Niasse or USSEIN would open in October 2016, according to Le Soleil.

He told the first meeting of the new institution’s steering committee that USSEIN would concentrate on the needs of the rural population, and its construction on five sites would start soon after finalising matters with the ministry of economy and finance.

Le Soleil said USSEIN would be a ‘university of innovation’ dedicated to agriculture and forestry, at first offering 20 licences professionnelles – initial three-year vocationally oriented degrees. It would focus on initial and continuing education, with strong links to the business world through training, research, innovation and preparation of students for employment and entrepreneurship.

Sine-Saloum has signed an agreement with French consortium Agreenium, comprising French higher education institutions and research institutes specialising in agronomy, reported Le Soleil.

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