Classrooms stuffed with 100 students, teachers striking over woeful pay and
pupils taking to the streets in protest: Gabon's education system is far from
top of the class.
government has temporarily shut public schools in the hope of containing
protests that erupted when students returned for the new academic year in
October, but the move has failed to cool a torrent of anger around the
mid-November, students in middle school (aged 11-15) and high school (15-18)
united to support their striking teachers by joining them in demonstrations in
the capital, Libreville.
police and university students also clashed in February over non-payment of
on strike here because our teachers are not being paid and we want to stick up
for them," said Basile, a pupil at Lycee Technique Omar Bongo Ondimba --
named for the Gabonese president whose 42-year rule was tinged by accusations
of rampant corruption, and whose son, current President Ali Bongo Ondimba, has
faced similar charges from rights groups.
say poorly paid teaching posts have not seen wages increase over the years,
while the cost of living keeps going up.
2002 and 2012, my salary hasn't risen at all despite the length of time I've
served. Today, the government owes me millions of francs!" said Blaise, a
high school teacher in Libreville.
Gabon's 13 000
schoolteachers are paid a base salary of 150 000 CFA francs per month (230
euros, $310), equivalent to the minimum wage, which is supposed to be padded
out by allowances for housing and transport, and for seniority.
like Blaise are still waiting for the additional payments they are due each
month - extra money desperately needed in a country where basic goods are
government acknowledges its schools have some serious issues, but has yet to
offer concrete solutions to end the impasse.
Libama, a trade unionist, told AFP the government of the oil-rich but deeply
unequal country had not understood "the magnitude of the current
advisor Etienne Massard Makaga recently admitted during a live television
debate that the education system had "some problems".
to Bongo - who took over from his father when he died in 2009 - also said
Gabon "wasn't exactly getting top marks", referring to the 50% pass rate for the national baccalaureate exam, taken by pupils in the last year
Gabonese teachers do not even make minimum wage and have to go to extreme
lengths to make ends meet.
worked for the last eight years for 80 000 CFA francs per month, which they
call a 'pre-salary', while waiting for a budget allocation" for a standard
salary, said Anne-Marie Nkie Nsogo, who teaches at a pre-school in the capital.
five children, and in order to pay for them to go to school I have taken on
cleaning work. I do the ironing at people's homes, and sometimes I even
barbeque food to sell by the side of the road," she said. "All the
rest goes on rent."
And beyond the
precarious existence of its teachers, the typical Gabonese classroom is in
pretty poor shape itself.
buildings have lacked basic maintenance over the years, and there are often
water and electricity shortages, pupils and teachers say.
finally got to the point where I had 120 pupils, some of them sat on the floor,
others at the very back of the room," said Patrick, a science teacher in
an overcrowded neighbourhood in the capital.
there are no textbooks, the students cannot even learn the same thing from one
school to the next," said Clovis Mbend Nze, a high school Spanish teacher.
books that I had at university, adapting them for the students, but they are 15
years old," he added. "Everyone makes it work, in their own