Military coup’s turmoil disrupts academic activities

The teaching at some universities in Burkina Faso appears to have been disrupted following a military coup barely 10 months after the last one that removed democratically elected Roch Marc Christian Kaboré from power.

Ibrahim Traoré, a captain in the country’s army, announced on 30 September that the army had seized power and ousted military leader Paul-Henri Damiba, who led a coup eight months ago.

The country’s new military leaders said in a TV statement that they had suspended the constitution, sealed the borders, dissolved the transitional government and legislative assembly and instituted a 9pm to 5am curfew.

The coup has been condemned by the African Union, which called on the military to respect human rights and comply with electoral deadlines for the restoration of constitutional order by 1 July 2024.

Turmoil affects teaching

Theophile Bindeoue Nasse, a lecturer at New Dawn University in Burkina Faso, told University World News through WhatsApp voice notes and messages that there has been no decision by the leaders to close universities.

“Public universities located outside Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, offered some lectures but there was no teaching at those in the capital,” Nasse said.

“Some private universities still do lectures but others do not think it is safe to continue because of the turmoil in the country,” said Nasse.

“Because of security reasons and the closing of some roads by troops, classroom activities were postponed not to put students lives in danger,” he noted.

The ministry of education issued a communiqué closing schools nationwide until further notice and the airport remains closed, according to a 1 October security alert published by the US embassy in Ouagadougou.

On 1 October, protesters attacked the French embassy in Burkina Faso’s capital after supporters of the coup leader accused France of harbouring the ousted interim president, a charge French authorities denied.

As a result, new reports indicated that there were still signs of violence in the capital.

The Burkina Faso Students and Trainees Association in Ghana posted a video clip on its Facebook pages. Accompanying comments welcomed the coup, with statements such as: “We stand with you, only do not make the same mistakes as the previous leader.”

Nasse said the academic community hopes that leaders will understand educational development challenges.

“These educational challenges include lack of equipped labs and lecture rooms, shortage of qualified lecturers, security crises and bad working conditions for university staff, along with financial support [needed] for students,” said Nasse.

“Most of the appointed leaders come to enjoy positions but not to improve the weak university performance indicators,” he pointed out.

A 2020 article entitled ‘State of higher education in Burkina Faso’ indicated that higher education in Burkina Faso must overcome numerous challenges, including the lack of infrastructure and teacher staffing levels in the nation’s higher education institutions, along with gender disparity.

On the security crisis issue, in Burkina Faso, attacks on schools, universities, students and education personnel continued at a high rate during the 2020-21 reporting period, according to Track Attacks on Education (TRACE) Data Portal – a new tool which applies humanitarian technology to generate reliable, timely data on attacks on education to be freely shared.

In 2020 and 2021, 185 attacks were recorded and 274 students and educators were abducted, injured, killed, or otherwise harmed by armed groups or during military action in 2020 and 2021. Also, 85 schools and universities were damaged or destroyed.

Burkina Faso is a weak performer in terms of its knowledge infrastructure. It ranks 144th out of 154 countries in the 2021 Global Knowledge Index (GKI) that measures knowledge performance of countries worldwide using seven sectorial indices, including higher education and research, development and innovation (RDI).

It also ranks 133 in higher education and 152 in research, development and innovation along with being 18th out of the 27 countries with low human development.