In Gabon, student demonstrations denouncing a suggested reform of a scholarship system are gaining momentum.
Since Monday, high school students across the country have been protesting against the tightening of scholarship conditions.
In March a draft decree restricting access to University scholarships for future Gabonese students was endorsed. It now sets the maximum age for entitlement at 19 years and requires an average of at least 12 Baccalaureate.
“That’s a problem. I’m 21 years old, let’s suppose that I get a score of 17 in high school, it’s an example, but I’m over 19 years old, I can’t get the scholarship. These decisions are completely flawed. It sucks,” said Samantha a 21-year-old senior high school student.
On the street, parents look anxiously at their children’s parade.
“It’s a pretty complicated situation. The State, on the one hand, wants to promote expertise. The State wants to promote the most deserving. On the other hand, it is poor families who will take a hit because when the child arrives at university it is a relief for the poor scholarships,” said Jean Ndong, a parent.
Prime Minister Julien Nkogue Bekale has defended this new measure, citing in particular the economic difficulties the country’s is facing.
In response to the grumbling of the students, the Minister of State in charge of national education Michel Menga M’Essone tries to provide explanations.
“Remember that what is happening here is the result of the general assembly. That is why I told you: the decision on scholarships comes from the general state of education. That’s why I told you. Now you’re reacting. But when you react, react without violence because who are you going to do violence to?” asked the minister.
Before the decree, Gabonese students who had obtained their baccalaureate were eligible for a university scholarship of about 83,000 CFA francs an equivalent of 127 euros per month.