Ongoing protests over non-payment of salaries and grants

A continuing strike by administrative staff at Antananarivo University over the non-payment of salaries has intensified, their action exacerbating longstanding protests by students, who have not received their grants because of the strike.

Members of the Personnel Administratif et Technique (PAT) union, who had not been paid for two months, were angered by Christian Ntsay, the prime minister, denying on 14 October that the reason their salaries were unpaid was the government’s financial problem.

The university had been responsible for paying the staff since January, reported L’Express de Madagascar, which quoted Ntsay as saying that it was no longer acceptable for the state budget to be “misappropriated”.

L’Express reported him as saying the government was taking action against misappropriation by introducing digitalisation.

Miora Rahantamalala, the vice president of PAT, responded to the prime minister by saying that, if the state had the resources, “why doesn’t it settle our problems?”.

She added: “Problems of organisation and improvements do not concern us. As far as we know, we should receive our pay, on time, every month,” reported L’Express.

She said the union would continue its strikes until the problem was solved.

Students await grants

Union members reacted violently following Ntsay’s statement, with demonstrators blocking roads and burning tyres, reported L’Express.

But Ntsay insisted: “The state cannot be forced through strikes to be indulgent and go along with the diversion of state budgets,” reported L’Express.

Meanwhile, students in the sciences and mathematics faculty gave the government a 72-hour ultimatum with notice of new protest actions, citing the non-payment of their grants and delay in opening the 2020-21 university year.

“There are about 700 of us students who have not received our study grants. Those in charge of digitalisation have not mastered their profession and have caused this problem.

“We call on those responsible to sort out this problem as quickly as possible, or we shall take action,” L’Express reported students as saying.

They also demanded resumption of their courses, which were due to start on 4 October but remained closed because of the PAT strike.

Meanwhile, reported L’Express, at Toliara University, the final sessions of the 2019-20 university year should have been taking place with exams, presentation of dissertations and publication of results; but lecturers were on strike demanding better conditions of work – especially following a students’ strike in June when teachers’ accommodation had been set on fire.

“We are also waiting for gestures from the higher education ministry and from the government. Gestures to reassure us, reassure our lives, our property and our conditions of teaching at the University of Toliara,” L’Express reported a lecturer as saying.

There had been no progress for weeks, and students had also given notice of strike action demanding their teachers return to work, reported L’Express.

Meanwhile, the president of the federation of student associations had been arrested the previous weekend, identified as one of the strike leaders who had gone into hiding in the nearby forest after the events in June, reported the paper.

Public dignitaries of Toliara town were negotiating for the release of the student; university enrolments would take place on 6 November; and exam results were expected in the next few days, reported L’Express. — Compiled by Jane Marshall.

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