Burkinabe students protest: "We're tired of school fees we can't afford!"

 
 
In Burkina Faso, parents pay to enroll their children in public school and for them to take exams. Pupils and teachers have been up in arms since the the government decided to double certain fees, with no explanation.
 
Every year, Burkinabe parents have to crack open the piggy bank to be able to send their children to school. Many families simply cannot afford to do so. As a result, the country's illiteracy rate (80 percent) is one of the highest in Europe. The poorest children rely only on non-governmental organisations and  charities to learn how to read and write, with mixed results.
 
Last week, the government announced an increase in the enrollment cost for the baccalaureat (end of high school) exams and high school graduation certificates. This decision triggered a general strike of students and teachers in Tenkodogo, the capital of the Boulgou province.
 
The high cost of living in Burkina Faso is an ongoing subject of debate. In 2008, the government had to confront  violent riots against the price of staple food products. Since the beginning of December, Burkinabes were once again faced with increasing sugar and fuel prices.
 
Burkina Faso has been run by the iron fist of Blaise Compaore since 1987. The president was elected for the fourth consecutive term on November 21, 2010.
  
 
 
Video posted on YouTube profile  of our Observer. Procession of students and teachers marching towards the DRESSRS (Department for Secondary Education and Scientific Research) in Tenkodogo, on December  9.
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“If we pay for our studies, the government must ensure that there is a sound employment policy”

 
Kenz Lunik (not his real name) is in his final year at the secondary school Riale de Tenkodogo, in Burkina Faso.
 
In Burkina Faso, we have heard a lot about education for all, but that has never amounted to any concrete action. In our system, we have a choice between public and private schools. At the public establishments, you pay right through from the first years to the end, but it is stil a lot cheaper than in the private schools, where places are much more rare. We all pay the enrollment fee, which is approximately 8000 CFA Francs,  or 12 euros. The fees are higher if we did not attend the same school the previous year. We also contribute to the Parent Teacher Association - it's about 5000 CFA Francs or eight euros per year. Finally, in both public and private schools, pupils pay to take their final exams and get their high school graduation certificate, which in my opinion is unreasonable, as they have paid their enrollment fees for several years.
 
The government has decided to double these fees (from 2000 to 4000 CFA Francs) for their high school certificate, with no justification. That is why we have been protesting.
 
These sums of money don’t seem huge, but most Bukinabe families don’t have the means to pay (the minimum wage in Burkina Faso is 40,000 CFA Francs, or 61 euros). In the villages and remote parts, parents are already struggling to get their children through school. But, even if they are poor, they still manage to prioritise their children’s education. Now it is going to become very difficult indeed.
 
“Sometimes final year teachers have 130 pupils in one class”
 
Teachers are having great difficulties with the huge increase in the number of students they are expected to teach. There are 60 in my class, which has been set as the limit. But in other schools, final year teachers have 130 in one class. How can you deliver quality teaching in those conditions?
 
Furthermore, what worries me the most is that it is far from certain whether this investment is worth it. I am afraid that I will end up in a university in which the degree won’t ensure a good job at the end of it. If we have to pay for our studies, the government must implement a sound employment policy, so that we are not investing for nothing."
 
 
 
 
Photos published on the Facebook profile of our Observer.
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