Minister promises grants will be paid – five months late

As student protests against non-payment of grants spread through universities in Madagascar, Higher Education and Scientific Research Minister Elia Béatrice Assoumacou has explained reasons for the delay and announced that they will be paid on 17 April – five months late.

Meanwhile, researchers are turning to self-financing their projects because, with only 0.1% of the state’s budget dedicated to research, they can neither rely on state funding, nor on the private sector for support.

Speaking about the grants, Assoumacou told a press briefing that the reason for the delay in paying them was linked to the increased number of students, reported Midi-Madagasikara.

University presidents had called for the new academic year to start on 2 November 2022 at the latest, said Assoumacou, “but, with the strong demand, some departments could not finalise registrations until 30 November. As for the students, they raised problems about paying their fees and asked to make payments in instalments. The ministry granted an extension until 18 January 2023, then a request for a second deadline was received.

“We agreed, and the final deadline was fixed at 13 February. It was then that the grants commission began to process the registrations, to check for duplication and draw up the final list of students eligible for grants. This was completed on 25 February.

“However, some universities were still receiving applications until 31 March. Altogether, 115,000 grant holders have been registered,” Midi-Madagasikara quoted her as saying.

Violent protests

The paper reported that three universities had not provided the registration lists in time, and some had raised problems of internet connections as a cause of the delay, holding up the process further.

The payments, now scheduled for the week starting 17 April, were a major expense, concerning funds for maintenance as well as five months of grants for the 115,000 beneficiaries, it said.

Before the minister’s explanation, student strikes and protests, some violent, took place at the universities of Andrainjato Fianarantsoa, Toamasina, Mahajanga and Antananarivo Polytechnique, against the non-payment of grants and poor living conditions, reported Midi-Madagasikara.

At Andrainjato Fianarantsoa, students burned tyres and threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas. Local shops were disrupted and some were vandalised.

Researchers funding their own projects

Meanwhile, researchers are turning to self-financing their projects, because they cannot rely on sufficient state funding – only 0.1% of the state budget is for research – nor on the private sector for finance, reported L’Express.

“It’s negligible. To develop this sector, the state must allocate at least 1% of GDP to research,” L’Express reported Michel Ratsimbason, former president of the Association des Chercheurs-Enseignants (Association of Researchers and Lecturers), as saying at its annual general meeting.

Researchers generally turn to their partners in private enterprises for funding, but some projects are refused, reported L’Express.

Hobiniaina Rakotondrafara, a researcher at the Centre National de Recherche Industrielle et Technologique (National Centre of Industrial and Technological Research) was refused funding for her project on turning volcanic rock into granules for fertiliser, to improve farmers’ productivity.

“I presented my project to partners, but I didn’t get a reply. So I’m financing it myself, including the cost of travelling around the land, manufacturing machinery, and the analyses. I want to carry out a project which will have an impact on the lives of the population,” L’Express reported her as saying. – Compiled by Jane Marshall.

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