Students get grant arrears, teachers want government action

Following an ultimatum by students claiming payment of overdue grants, among other demands, Madagascar’s higher education ministry has undertaken to pay them arrears covering the last four months of the university year that has just ended.

Meanwhile, in the week before the students’ action, lecturers and researchers held a three-day strike to protest over unpaid overtime and other grievances.

Students from the country’s six public universities will receive their arrears between 24 August and October, reported Midi-Madagasikara.

They receive grants of between MGA25,000 and MGA45,000 (US$5.50 and $10) a month, according to Radio France International, or RFI.

Grant arrears were one of the grievances from students’ associations at the University of Antananarivo, sent in a letter to the ministry with a 72-hour ultimatum.

Other demands included the renovation of buildings, an end to electricity cuts and greater security – as well as catch-up sessions for courses suspended because of the strike by lecturers’ and researchers’ union SECES (Syndicat des enseignants chercheurs et des chercheurs enseignants), reported Midi-Madagasikara.

RFI quoted Justin, a third-year science student, who listed the causes of the troubles. “There is the problem of the teachers’ and researchers’ allowances, the suspension of the courses, the non-payment of grants. I try to hang on. But, sometimes, I am really discouraged. I have friends who have given up in the middle of the year because of all that.”

Jean, a law student, told RFI: “Most students need these grants to buy their provisions because their parents can’t help them. On top of that, there aren’t enough chairs, and not enough classrooms, so we have to wait till the end of a course before we can start our own. They always say that students are the future of the country, but these problems of grants and facilities occur every year.”

Long list of demands

In the week before the students’ action, SECES members at Antananarivo declared three days of universités et centres de recherche morts [dead universities and research centres], reported L’Express.

It said the list of demands was long, and protesters said none of their requests had been satisfied.

In June, the union’s members from the universities in all six provinces published a declaration on Facebook deploring the deterioration of infrastructure, lack of resources, non-payment of staff – and denouncing the inaction of the state.

“Higher education and scientific research are not among the priorities of today’s leaders,” RFI reported the union as saying.

SECES was especially worried by suspension of courses in several university departments because of failure for four years to pay part-time non-governmental employees, who bridged the lack of permanent staff and carried out 70% of teaching, reported RFI.

Research had also been hit badly over several years, claimed the union. “Subsidies allocated to universities and research centres are very low and payments delayed,” said the declaration. “If the state does not take action, universities and research centres will close.”

RFI reported at the time the higher education ministry responded by saying it was in constant touch with the union, and that the department was dependent on the public finance law. It said nine university campuses had been built in several regions of the country. — Compiled by Jane Marshall.

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