Teaching halted as lecturers call for better work conditions

Barely a week after lecturers and academic staff at the l’Institut Facultaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Yangambi (IFA Yangambi) in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo decided to halt teaching courses due to their alleged rampant mistreatment by the university, there appears to be little hope that academic activities will resume soon.

Lecturers and academic staff from the IFA Yangambi, one of the biggest public higher learning institutions, have threatened to halt all academic activities, alleging that demands to improve their living conditions have fallen on deaf ears.

Lecturers and academic staff also decry poor remuneration compared with other public employees.

This is the third time the striking lecturers and academic staff have organised such protests over the past three years as they have protested twice before, always being promised that their issues would be addressed.

In an extraordinary meeting earlier in May, some staff members, general workers and assistants decided to harden their strike movement, and have since decided not to participate in any departmental or academic activities.

According to the press release signed by Cyril Basinga Bogumbi, the head of the steering committee of the University Workers’ Union at the university, the union is tired of endless promises and wants something tangible to be done.

He added that the government has been reluctant to deal with issues brought to it by the lecturers, stressing that the pact and trust have been broken and violated.

Following several protests by lecturers and academic staff over poor conditions of service over the years, the Congolese government had promised to fix all the issues.

In its 87th meeting of the Council of Ministers in February this year, officials expressed deep concerns over the resurgence of strike movements.

The government called on trade unionists to bear with it, saying the country was first dealing with armed conflicts.

According to the minutes, Prime Minister Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge instructed the various ministers to resume talks with the unions and the heads of universities and higher learning institutions to address workers’ issues.

But protesters have decried that little has been done, insisting on urgent and sustainable solutions.

Students protest

Meanwhile, students from the same university have also been protesting about tuition fees. According to the students, the university’s management committee fixed the payment rate at an exchange rate of about 2,300 Congolese francs per US$1, which, they claim, is exorbitant.

They requested that the fees be calculated using an exchange rate of 2,200 Congolese francs per US$1.

Students also requested to pay for tuition in three instalments rather than paying in two instalments, as instructed by the management.

“We say no to the payment of academic fees in two instalments and to the commercial currency [exchange] rate,” read one of the posters held by veiled students during protests this week.

University World News could not obtain comments either from the university management or from government officials on how they intend to engage with the government, solve issues and resume courses.