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Cablegate: Cote D'ivoire: Closed Private Schools, Worried

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ABIDJAN 000944

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV ELAB IV
SUBJECT: COTE D'IVOIRE: CLOSED PRIVATE SCHOOLS, WORRIED
STUDENTS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Since May 17 the owners of secondary- and
university-level private schools have kept their institutions
closed in protest over nonpayment of government subsidies.
According to the owners, the government owes them a total of
USD 37 million for the years 2003 through 2005. On June 7
there was a demonstration of approximately 300 private high
school students in front of the Municipal Building to demand
the reopening of the schools. The government will likely
feel mounting pressure from the growing number of its own
people to whom it is failing to meet its obligations. END
SUMMARY.

2. (U) In the 1990s, because the public school system
infrastructure could not meet enrollment demand, the
government enlisted the help of private schools. Students
who cannot find space at the public schools can enroll in
private schools, with the government subsidizing their
tuition. The government subsidizes about 75 percent of an
authorized student's tuition. Depending on the course of
study, tuition can range from USD 400 to USD 1200 per year.

3. (U) There are over 100 private schools, high school-
through university-level, located in large city centers such
as Abidjan and Yamoussoukro. There are about 50,000 students
in the private school system with subsidized tuition.

4. (U) According to the private school owners at the start of
the closures, the government owed a total of USD 44 million:

- USD 8 million for arrears from 2003.
- USD 16 million for returning authorized students in
2004-2005.
- USD 20 million for new authorized students in 2005.

5. (U) The Public Treasury says it has no records of these
amounts owed, but is waiting for direction from the Ministry
of Higher Education. The Minister of Higher Education,
Fofana Zemogo, met with the owners on May 26 and granted USD
seven million towards the owners' claims, bringing the
totaled owed down to USD 37 million. However, the owners say
the minimum they will accept to reopen their schools is USD
24 million.

7. (U) Today, June 7, three weeks after the private schools
closed, 300 private high school students staged a non-violent
demonstration in front of the Cite Administrative (Municipal
Building), protesting the continued closure of the schools
and demanding to meet with the Minister of Higher Education.
For the students, if schools do not reopen in time to hold
final exams, they will not be able to move up to the next
grade this fall. There may be more of these student
demonstrations if the situation remains unresolved. (NOTE:
It is unlikely that final exams will be cancelled, but they
could be postponed for a few months.)

8. (SBU) COMMENT. The threat of cancelled final exams gives
the private school owners a strong bargaining chip in
negotiating with the government. However, it may not be
enough leverage to get the government to pay the full amount
claimed. The government is behind on its payments to many
parties, from teachers to police to the World Bank. Arrears
to the private schools, going back as far as 2003, are
another sign of the serious, continuing deterioration in the
government's finances. Neglecting education and public
safety while agreeing to make generous pension payments to
retired government officials is also a sign of how misplaced
the government's priorities are. Over the next few months,
as election day draws nearer, the government is likely to
feel mounting pressure from the growing number of its own
people to whom it is failing to meet its obligations --
students, teachers, private school owners, police officers,
soldiers, and civil servants. END COMMENT.
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