Cost sharing and institutional instability in Francophone West Africa: Student resistance at the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Some, Touorouzou Herve
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Today, the massification of higher education has imposed a pervasive austerity on African higher education institutions. The introduction of cost sharing has sparked student resistance across most campuses. In francophone countries entrenched in the tradition of free higher education, students resist violently this new paradigm. This study set out to garner students' perceptions of cost sharing at the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The study aimed to understand the reasons of the strong opposition of students to partaking in the costs of their studies. A new theoretical framework was articulated around five points: (1) the French tradition and the history of having "free" higher education; (2) the resistance to cost sharing and the African leftist ideology; (3) globalization and its discontents; (4) cost sharing, tax revenue, and governance; and (5) theories of student activism. One-on-one interview questions as well as focus group discussions were used to tease out the meanings that students make of cost sharing: poverty, the perception that the government was just disengaging from public education, the sense in which cost sharing did not change the quality of teaching nor the students' living conditions in any way, and more so, the perceived bad governance of the public good strongly shape students' attitudes. Because of the graft, corruption, and waste students find the government to be responsible for, they maintain that cost sharing is neither to be regarded as an imposition from the World Bank, nor something induced by popular culture or student culture but just by the moral and material conditions of students. Albeit politics is present in the background, students hold that their attitude is basically determined by their falling living and study conditions and anger at the waste and corruption in government. The study concludes that, although cost sharing is still a fledgling attempt at the University of Ouagadougou, a breakthrough has taken place in the sense that paying for one's higher education has come to the fore in the public debate.