Niger universities paralysed as teachers, students strike
19 September 2016, 19:57
Niamey - Lecturers and students in Niger on Monday launched a week-long strike, paralysing universities across the country in protest over the non-payment of salaries and grants.
Industrial action earlier this month has already complicated the start of the academic year, disrupting studies in the capital Niamey and across the country.
"We have begun a seven-day strike to demand the payment of salary arears and research grants," Bakasso Sahabi, head of Niger's union of teachers and researchers (SNECS) told reporters.
He said the strike, which was being widely observed, was the continuation of a strike by teachers who observed a three-day stoppage nearly two weeks ago.
Students had also decided to "boycott lessons" to demand the payment of overdue grants and the recruitment of more teachers.
They were also demanding "more classrooms", according to Salaou Chaibou, head of Niamey University's students' union (UENUN).
"It is unacceptable that students have to hang off the window frames in order to attend a course," said Moumouni Issaka, another union official.
Niger's minister for education minister Mohamed Ben Omar acknowledged there had been a problem with salary payments, but insisted the problem had been resolved.
"Four months of salary arrears" at Zinder University in central Niger had already been taken care of, Ben Omar told public television on Saturday, saying there was no longer any reason to continue the strike.
He blamed the delay in paying wages and grants on the country's military expenditure which had "raked in" all the treasury's revenues.
Since February 2015, Boko Haram has staged a series of attacks in the Diffa region of southeast Niger, which lies just across the border from the Islamists' stronghold in northeastern Nigeria.
In late July this year a multinational force, drawn from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, was formed to tackle the Islamic insurgents and clear them out of towns and villages. The force is funded by each of the participating states.