Burundi university students on strike

Students of three departments of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Burundi have resumed strike. They protest against the university’s decision to suspend some students for not having respected the ultimatum to resume studies issued by the rector. For them, that measure was both arbitrary and harsh.

Expelled students gathered at the university

Expelled students gathered at the university

The students who had just resumed studies after a two-month strike have gone on it again. This time the motivation is the sympathy towards their colleagues who have been suspended from the university for the academic year 2015-2016 because they didn’t respect the rector’s ultimatum to resume studies on Thursday, 12 August. “The decision to expel our colleagues was arbitrary and unjust. We, the students’ representatives, had agreed with the principals that we would come back to study and continue discussions with them while at work. We knew some students could not come back to the university within the deadline set by the rector for various reasons, particularly because many students live upcountry and therefore couldn’t meet the deadline.We asked for, and the principals agreed on, the extension of the deadline from Thursday to Tuesday, at the latest.We felt betrayed when we heard students who were not present on Friday were suspended for this academic year”, says Karagane Salomon, the 3rd year class representative in the department of English Language and Literature.

If indeed the deadline to resume studies had been extended to Tuesday 16, technically no student was on strike on Friday 12. The rector’s Thursday 11 ultimatum was obsolete. Nonetheless, he suspended those who were absent on that Friday. The decision had two side effects. Firstly, the suspension en masse affected students who had been present on Thursday and were merely absent on Friday. “I was present on Thursday. I couldn’t attend studies on Friday because I was detained at home. And I was surprised to see my name on the list of students who were suspended because they were on strike. I was not on strike”, says one student contacted by Iwacu. Secondly, the decision harmed students who were absent on Friday simply because they live upcountry far away from the university and needed more time to get ready to come back to the university. For this reason, the Bureau of class representatives sent a letter to the rector begging him to revise the suspension.

Neither of the two dissonant students’approaches to the problem has yet yielded any result. As for the university officials they say they are unaware of the strike. However, the observation on the ground by Iwacu confirmed that students of the departments of French Language and Literature, English Language and Literature and African Studies were not studying this afternoon August 17.

Strikes have become an integral component of the Burundi University students’ culture. It is their privileged approach to their academic problems involving authorities. As for the current strike, it begs the question of differentiating between students’ rights and university officials prerogatives since the root reason was the refusal by students of academic reforms undertaken by the university.

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