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Côte d'Ivoire: Debate Rages over University Fees

[All links forward to French sources unless otherwise stated.]

The universities of Côte d'Ivoire are getting ready to re-open their doors on September 3, 2012, bringing to an end long months of closure [en] controversially ordered by the Ivorian president. Joy at this announcement was swiftly replaced by a wave of indignant reactions following the decision of university heads to increase registration fees:

Les étudiants débourseront désormais respectivement 100.000 FCFA par an pour s’inscrire au premier cycle (de la 1ère année à la licence), 200.000 FCFA, pour le Master et 300.000 pour le DEA et le Doctorat.

From now on, students will each pay out 100,000 West African Francs, CFA, per year to register for a degree course, 200,000 CFA for a Masters and 300,000 CFA for a post graduate certificate and doctorate.

The following video shows the announcement of the increase in university fees as reported on the RTI [en] television channel:

Ivorian students used to pay 6,000 CFA registration fees. According to the Ivorian authorites, quoted on news website abidjan.net:

Ces montants permettront, en plus de la subvention de l’Etat, d'accroître les capacités financières des universités, en vue de faire face au manque de matériel didactique dont l'absence criante avait obligé par exemple l’UFR des sciences à suspendre les travaux pratiques.

These increases, along with the state subsidy, will allow growth of the financial capacities of the universities, so as to tackle the lack of teaching materials, the glaring absence of which has obliged, for example, the Sciences Research and Training department to suspend practical work.

 

University of Cocody, Abidjan. Photo by Alexenafrique, copyright Demotix (13/10/11).

However, these measures have led to many strong reactions in the media, and on various Ivorian social networks, forums and blogs. Opinions are divided, but student organisations unequivocally reject the measure. The student federation of Côte d'Ivoire, FESCI [en], via its spokesperson General Secretary Mian Augustin, announced that:

Nous considérons toujours les six mille FCFA comme le montant des frais d’inscription.

We still consider six thousand CFA to be the amount of the registration fee.

While Mominé Roland of the General Association of Students of Côte d'Ivoire, AGEECI, is of the opinion that “it is unacceptable”, General Secretary of the National Student Union of Côte d'Ivoire, Kouadio Jean-Baptiste, condemned “a veritable rip off.”

Spokesperson for the students collective for the reopening of public universities, Gbané Aleoussène concluded, “we feel excluded”.

Certain political parties such as the Rally of the Republicans, RDR, party of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, have also taken a stand against the new amounts for registration fees:

 Sans remettre en cause le principe d’une augmentation, le RDR estime que cette hausse des frais d’inscription est disproportionnée

While not questioning the principle of an increase, the RDR believes that this rise in registration fees is disproportionate.

Discussions have been raging on social networks. A Facebook group has even been created to say no to the registration fees.

Opinions on Twitter were uncompromising, with many, such as JusticeJFK, believing that the fees are too high:

@JusticeJFK: Un Pays Pauvre Très Endetté a des habitants pauvres très endettés. 1.567% d'augmentation de frais d'inscription, c'est trop! #civ2010#ci225

@JusticeJFK: A heavily indebted country with heavily indebted inhabitants. 1,567% of an increase in registration fees is way too much! #civ2010 #ci225

In a similar vein, Kady S tweeted:

@Kadsak: J'ai l'impression que les nouveaux dirigeants de la #civ2010 ignorent tout de la réalité des ivoiriens aujourd'hui. Les gens ne mangent pas!

@Kadsak: I have the impression that the new leaders of the #civ2010 are completely ignorant of the reality for Ivorians today. These people can hardly afford to eat!

Meanwhile, teacher Antoine Mian contemplated the consequences of this measure:

@Mianseh: J'ose espérer que les éminent profs qui ont pris cette décision en ont mesuré la dimension sociale, économique, politique et accadémique

@Mianseh: I hope that the eminent professors who took this decision have considered the social, economic, political and academic dimensions.

On his blog, Bamba Moussa also stated that he believed the registration fees were too high:

J’ose cependant espérer que de tels tarifs comprendront de nombreux services tels que: La bourse ou l’aide financière pour tous les inscrits, une chambre en cité, un abonnement annuel au resto de l’université, une assurance, la carte de bus et j’en passe. A défaut, le titre d’Universités Publiques serait à revoir.

I hope, however, that such charges include many services, such as: a grant or financial aid for all registered students, a room in halls of residence, a year's free meals in the university restaurant, insurance, bus pass and so on. Failing which, the name ‘Public Universities’ should be revised.

Yet some think the new charges fair, and even necessary for quality teaching as well as revaluation of degrees issued in Côte d'Ivoire. Brahima Bakayoko tweeted:

@fielanord: Avec 100 000 (etudiants) * 150 mille (moyenne) les 15 milliards CFA qui peut leur permettre de s'autofinancer et d'emprunter pour se développer.

@fielanord: With 100,000 (students) x 150 thousand (mean) = 15 billions CFA;  the universities can self finance and borrow to grow.

For government minister Alain Lobognon, who has a high profile on Twitter, this measure resolves a certain injustice between university students and students of the ‘Grandes écoles’:

@AlainLobogon: Pourquoi avec le même BAC, des étudiants paient rien, quand d'autres sont condamnés par l'Etat de #ci225 à payer cher pour leur formation?

@AlainLobogon: Why, when holding the same Baccalaureate , do some students pay nothing, while others are condemned by the state under #ci225 to pay a lot for their education?

He added:

@AlainLobogon:  @aremsbee Les supports pédagogiques ont un prix à payer. L'Etat les paiera. Les étudiants doivent contribuer pour l'entretien. #ci225

@AlainLobogon: @aremsbee Teaching aids cost money. The state will pay for them. Students must contribute towards their upkeep. #ci225

Blogger Nnenna, who claims that the new charges are fair, has even researched university registration fees for Côte d'Ivoire and nearby countries:

@nnenna: Mise à jour: Togo “Finalement les frais annuels varient donc entre 50.000 F et 300.000 F CFA” #civedu #ci225

@nnenna: Update from Togo: ‘When all is said and done, annual fees vary between 50,000 and 300,000 CFA’. #civedu #ci225

Nnenna also reported the following information for Benin:

@nnenna Frais d'inscription #Benin: Faculté 15.000 FCFA autres, 226.200 ENEAM 256.200, Informatique de Gestion 306.200 #CIV2010#CI225

@nnenna Registration fees #Benin: University 15,000 CFA – others, 226,000 – School of Applied Economics and Management, ENEAM 256,200 – commercial data processing 306,000 #CI225

However, other people, who do not have such a clear-cut position, are also found on the social networks. Marti sums up this middle of the road position which seems to have many adherents:

Que les droits d'inscription augmentent ok. Mais de manière raisonnable. Et ensuite, bourses/résultats. Mais accès pour tous à l'université #CIV2010

OK, let the registration fees be raised. But in a reasonable manner. And next, grants/results. But access to university for all. #CIV2010

While debate continues to rage both online and offline, the Ivorian government have taken everyone by surprise with a decision leading to:

suspension de la mesure envisagée d`augmentation des frais d`inscription dans les universités publiques, le temps de poursuivre la réflexion

suspension of the proposed measure to increase public university registration fees, to allow time for further reflection.

 

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