On June 16, 2021, police used tear gas and fired live ammunition at University of Toliara (UT) students protesting late scholarship payments in the city of Tuléar. One person was killed.
In February, students at several universities across Madagascar protested to demand payment of their scholarships, which had been delayed (see report).
On June 15, UT students began a strike after the demands that were previously issued had still not been met. Students demanded an additional five months’ worth of scholarship payments and validation of the students’ diplomas. Students clashed with police, who fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. One report indicates that students engaged in looting and throwing rocks at police officers.
The protests continued early in the morning of June 16. According to reports, students marched from the university to the city center, where they were met by police, who fired tear gas and live ammunition at them. Students responded by throwing stones. One protester (reporting conflicts as to whether he was a student) was shot and died from his injuries. Several students and police officers were left injured. Reports also indicate that student protesters set fire to a building located within professors’ living quarters on campus.
On June 17, Madagascar’s Ministry of Higher Education announced that students would soon be receiving the equivalent of three months of scholarship money, leaving two months yet to be paid. On June 19, it was reported that students received this final payment.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence and the use of lethal force during a student protest. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and security, they also have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate to the situation, do not endanger protesters, and are not undertaken to restrict nonviolent expressive activity. Students likewise have a responsibility to carry out expressive activities peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of violent force during protests undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.