Teachers in French territory of Mayotte protest as youth clashes increase
Since the beginning of the school year in September, tensions have been rising in the French overseas territory of Mayotte, where rival groups of youth have been facing off near local high schools. On November 30 and December 2, teachers from Kahani High School gathered to protest for better security, worried that the situation could escalate further.
Tensions between groups of young people have been particularly high around Kahani High School, which has almost 2,000 students. A video filmed and broadcast live on November 15 shows clashes between young people and police near the school, which is in the east of Mayotte's main island. The young people threw projectiles and stones at the police, who responded with tear gas.
Meanwhile, high schoolers were filmed taking refuge inside the school.
The violence continued on the school grounds, as shown in other videos taken by teachers and provided to the FRANCE 24 Observers team. In a statement given to our team, teachers said the school was transformed into a "battlefield", taken over by youth armed with stones and iron rods who wore pieces of cloth to identify which side they were on.
'What worries me ... is how hard it is to reason with students today'
We spoke to one of the teachers who has gone out to protest. Jérémie Saiseau is a literature professor and union representative.
The first violent scene since the start of the school year took place on September 24: There was a crowd gathering, so we had to bring in all the students and young people who were outside, including some from other schools. A colleague was pelted with stones in her classroom. We don't know if this is related to what happened outside. Students are normally very respectful in class so this was a worrying sign for us.
More than 70 percent of people are living below the poverty line, Saiseau said. The rising cases of violence may result from the desperation that young people in Mayotte are feeling in face of this social and economic crisis.
In 2018, there was a general strike on the island of Mayotte for three months, following a similar wave of violence in high schools. Our team went there to learn more:
Teachers and parents fear that the current violence will escalate further, threatening security in the territory.
Meanwhile, the Mayotte school board has announced that it will build new school buildings and double its security personnel in order to guarantee the safety of teachers and students.