The failure of five Ivory Coast universities to open this month has been blamed on political meddling from the new government of president Alassane Ouattara.
The five universities – Abobo-Adjamé, Bouaké, Cocody, Daloa and Korogho – have been closed for the past seven months.
Their continued closure this month – normally the start of the new academic year in the Ivory Coast – means that qualifying high school pupils cannot proceed with their tertiary education.
“There are many who just completed high school and they haven’t been recruited for the beginning of the academic year in October,” a researcher from one of the closed universities said.
About 53,000 students at the University of Cocody may also not complete their degrees due to the closure.
“My students are asking me when they will return to school but I don’t have answers for them,” a lecturer said by email.
Many academics believed the university closures were designed to punish suspected supporters of ousted president Laurent Gbagbo.
Ibrahima Cissé Bacongo, the minister of higher education and scientific research, has taken over the running of some of the universities.
Lecturers are now required to seek permission from Cissé before undertaking any international trips.
The failure to secure funding to repair infrastructure damaged during the fighting between Ouattara and Gbagbo’s forces is compounding the universities’ problems.
Thugs took advantage of the closure to steal computers, air conditioners and laboratory equipment at the University of Cocody, according to a researcher.
“My office is an empty shell. They took my computer and laboratory equipment,” he said.
“If they say ‘go back to school’ to students, there will be no desks and no tables.”
Repairing the damage at the five institutions will be costly.
Last month, Cissé appeared on national television and estimated that the cost of repairing damages at the five universities was about US$ 67 million.
In the first week of October, Cissé toured the 191 hectare campus of the University of Cocody with the current Ivory Coast prime minister, Guillaume Soro.
According to a report on Abidjan.net, earthworks and other signs of rehabilitation were evident.
Guillaume Avéoli Kouassi, the project manager, said that two 682-seat lecture halls, 18 tutorial rooms, dozens of laboratories and nine toilet blocks were being built.
He claimed that the premises may be ready by the end of the year.
Soro also claimed the university’s medical school will get new lecture halls and laboratories and will host the future National Center for Radiation and Medical Oncology.
Cissé told the media during the walkabout that the cost of rehabilitating the universities of Cocody and Abobo-Adjamé and other educational institutions in the towns of Bingerville and Treichville is estimated at 35 billion Central African Francs (about US$ 74 million).
He said some of the money would be used to purchase computers and air conditioners.