In a widespread demonstration of discontent, hundreds of students took to the streets in various Gabonese cities on Monday, protesting against the recent tightening of eligibility criteria for scholarships awarded to secondary school students. The revised requirements now mandate a minimum grade of 12/20, up from the previous threshold of 10, to qualify for the scholarship.
Protests unfolded in the capital city, Libreville, as well as in Koula Moutou, Franceville, and Moanda in southern Gabon, all echoing a singular demand – the restoration of accessible scholarships. Before its abolition in 2017 under the administration of Ali Bongo, every student maintaining an average grade of 10/20 received a quarterly scholarship amounting to 24,000 FCFA.
On September 4th, during his inaugural address, General Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguéma announced the reinstatement of unconditional scholarship payments. However, contrary to expectations, the Minister of National Education declared last week that students must now achieve a minimum average of 12 in college and 11 in high school to be eligible, sparking outrage among the student population.
The government’s abrupt policy reversal has faced severe criticism on social media platforms. Donatien Boulingui, President of the National Parents’ Council of Gabon, warned about the potential psychological impact of these new measures on already-commenced academic activities: “These measures may lead to risks of psychological disturbances among our young students for the ongoing school year,” he remarked.
Appearing on the 8:00 PM national news broadcast, Laurence Ndong, Minister and government spokesperson, expressed disappointment that the authorities’ efforts to reinstate these scholarships “in just four months” were not being acknowledged. “Despite the crisis, the President decided to reinstate the scholarships. Each one of us must make an effort,” she defended.
The disbursement of the 24,000 FCFA scholarship is set to commence in the coming days, with the government allocating an annual budget of 12 billion FCFA for this purpose. As tensions persist, the delicate balance between educational policies and the socio-economic realities faced by Gabonese students remains a critical issue for the government to address.