Students demand grant payments, safe living conditions

Engineering students at a grande école attached to the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar resumed protests in the streets against what they claim are failures by the authorities to pay their grants and improve their fire-prone living quarters.

The students of the École Supérieure Polytechnique d’Antananarivo, or ESPA, in Vontovorona, 26km from the capital, threw stones, blocked streets and paralysed traffic, clashed with police, and disrupted local residents and shops – an event likely to be repeated, reported Midi-Madagasikara.

It quoted a student as saying: “It’s highly probable we’ll be back on the street tomorrow. Indeed, our demonstration will only come to an end once our demands are satisfied.”

The students had resumed their protests after about 10 days of relative calm, although the disciplinary council had dropped a charge against four of them who had been accused of leading a demonstration without authorisation, and despite meeting the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Professor Elia Béatrice Assoumacou, to discuss carrying out improvements to students’ living conditions on campuses, reported L’Express.

But the students continued to demand schedules for payment of renovations and, as soon as possible, their grants, reported L’Express. “We don’t have enough resources. Most of us depend on our grants to survive,” it quoted them as shouting.

They also said they needed more than the single circuit-breaker that had been installed, that every university block should have one, and that, the previous week, a fire had nearly taken hold because there was no circuit-breaker in the building, reported L’Express.

Renovation works for student accommodation destroyed by fire in January had not yet started: “Their solution was to change a classroom into living quarters. But, after all that, the authorities have let some shops open there. We can’t accept that,” L’Express reported the students as saying.

Julien Salava, secretary general of the higher education ministry, told L’Express the grants would be paid soon, and the renovation of the block that had burned down would start soon. He said only one circuit-breaker had been requested by the regional centre responsible for university maintenance, the state of the buildings had been checked the week before and the ministry was asking ESPA to suspend commercial activity on the university campus. – Compiled by Jane Marshall.

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