Burkina Faso’s protest movement has been notable in large part for the diverse social groups it has drawn in, especially students, soldiers, and merchants.*
Last week, yet another constituency entered the fray. Teachers began a strike, adding their voices to the public outcry over economic stagnation, and contributing to the disruptions in schools and universities that the country has experienced since February:
National teachers’ union secretary general Mamadou Barro said the strike began Thursday to protest unresolved demands by the teachers including overcrowded classrooms and promotions.
“Demands raised long after ours have been resolved. Billions have been allocated to satisfy the soldiers and millions to compensate traders. The teachers believe no citizen is more deserving than another,” he said.
Students have reacted to the teachers’ strike in a largely supportive way:
Hundreds of students marched in Burkina Faso’ capital Ouagadougou on Friday to demand striking teachers return to the classroom.
“We want to go to class”, “We want government to solve our teachers’ problems,” the college and high school students shouted, gathering in front of the education ministry, national assembly, public television and prime minister’s office downtown, an AFP correspondent reported.
Friday’s protest was peaceful, but yesterday students returned to the streets and did some damage:
Thousands of students demonstrated in Burkina Faso’s capital on Monday in support of a teachers’ strike over pay and class size, some of them breaking windows and ransacking offices at the education ministry.
A Reuters witness said at least 3,000 students had demonstrated in the capital, most of them in front of the Ministry of Education, and that there was no evidence of security forces in the area.
Dozens of protesters threw rocks through the windows of the ministry, while others ransacked the offices on the first floor, the witness said.
Burkina Faso’s government has attempted to respond to the demands of different social groups, but clearly many grievances have gone unresolved. As protests continue, and as anger continues to target the government, the alliances that are emerging among different protesting groups show the potential for a broad-based, anti-regime movement.