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Student protests in sub-Saharan Africa

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This article addresses the question whether educational institutions will in the future become the arenas of social struggle in the African countries as other avenues of dissent become progressively closed. The paper first provides a brief outline of the social and economic context in the African countries in order to cast student political activism in the wider picture of the rapidly deteriorating conditions. Such an outline is deemed necessary to understand the genesis of student protests, and in particular, how school-based concerns (e.g., about declining educational standards) can escalate, providing the embryonic elements for the articulation of more widely-based social and economic questions which have no other avenue of expression in increasingly closed and repressive political regimes. The vicious circle of student action and predictable government reaction (e.g., repeated closures of educational institutions) which further contributes to the decline in the quality of education is then discussed. Finally, the paper touches on the problems of rising violence in student demonstrations, the solidarity which seems to be emerging between students and other social groups in some countries, and the potential implications for the struggles for democracy and political pluralism in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nkinyangi, J.A. Student protests in sub-Saharan Africa. High Educ 22, 157–173 (1991).

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