Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Just Another Student Protest... Not a Big Deal?

Disclaimer: If you happen to be one of those people who worry about me, the pictures in this post are not a big deal... even though they may look it. So don't worry. :)

Almost every day, a group of toubabs jump onto a bus and trek our way over to the university. Yesterday, our trip to UCAD was a little different in that we saw armoured police vehicles blocking some side streets and officers in helmets carrying guns and hanging out on the streets that we take to the university.
From Dakar 2010
I thought to myself, "Hey! I bet there is something intense going on at UCAD today." We'd heard about student protests from our coordinators many times.
From Dakar 2010
We pulled into UCAD and sure enough, students had blocked the streets with rocks so no one (specifically the police) could get through.
From Dakar 2010
They were protesting because it was July 6th and their scholarships hadn't been paid out yet. The university had the money... they just hadn't gotten around to giving it to the students. I learned today that most university students get some money each month to live. Unlike my experience in getting my aid money at the beginning of each semester, they get theirs at the beginning of the month. And a student's gotta eat... ya dig?
From Dakar 2010
I have to admit, this was a little exciting. Students actually organizing themselves? Wow. But then the military, specifically the police, got involved. This angered me because the government (hand in hand with the university) are the ones who caused this! The government are the ones who gave the money to the university and didn't enforce that the university paid the students on time. I heard a "pop" and saw the police shooting tear gas into the area where the students were gathered.
From Dakar 2010
From Dakar 2010
As a student who receives government aid and has received said aid since I was eighteen in the form of grants and loans, I understand the issue here. However, the difference is that I got my aid and never had to resort to this.
From Dakar 2010
A doctoral student I spoke with told me that a student died in one of these protests a few years ago. His exact words? "It's hard here."
From Dakar 2010
One of the questions we are asking in our research is: What is the state's role in producing and maintaining class conflict in education? While I have read about this happening, this was the first time in my life that I actually saw how the military and education are linked.

In the U.S., when tuition rates rise or FAFSA says your parents "make too much money" for you to receive aid, you might feel furious, but eventually, you just go with it and choose to go more into debt. And what does debt towards education even mean to my generation or the next? Why is it that students can attend the public university in Dakar for 5,000 CFA (that's about ten bucks for the whole year) and still get a first rate education when we pay thousands of dollars for one semester?

What would happen if the students at Western or any public university protested a rise in tuition rates by blocking the street and organizing themselves? I can't see that happening. That's why I take out loans and pay over 300 bucks a credit hour and my annual letter from Direct Loans claims all of my student loan debt will be paid off by the time I'm 64.

It is so easy to look at a group of young people fighting back and respond with tear gas, helmets, and armoured vehicles. It is even easier to throw rocks or shrug our shoulders at an issue instead of bringing groups of people together to change a system and create alternatives. This is something that makes life hard in Senegal and in the United States.
From Dakar 2010
Peace,
Jen
P.S. Pictures from campus and Point E after the tear gas cleared:
From Dakar 2010
From Dakar 2010
From Dakar 2010
From Dakar 2010
From Dakar 2010
From Dakar 2010
Man, this city is as beautiful as it is complex.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well done Mrs. Heymoss. Very well put together thoughts.

Joseph said...

The road block isn't all that daunting, but the pictures tell an amazing story. Thanks for sharing, as always..

Stay safe!

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