Ethiopia crackdown on student protests taints higher education success

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Friday, May 23, 2014

Over the past 15 years, Ethiopia has become home to one of the world's fastest-growing higher education systems. Increasing the number of graduates in the country is a key component of the government's industrialization strategy and part of its ambitious plan to become a middle-income country by 2025. Since the 1990s, when there were just two public universities, almost 30 new institutions have sprung up.

On the face of it, this is good news for ordinary Ethiopians. But dig a little deeper and tales abound of students required to join one of the three government parties, with reports of restricted curricula, classroom spies and crackdowns on student protests commonplace at universities.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in Ambo in Oromia state. On 25 April, protests against government plans to bring parts the town under the administrative jurisdiction of the capital, Addis Ababa, began at Ambo University. By the following Tuesday, as protests spread to the town and other areas of Oromia, dozens of demonstrators had been killed in clashes with government forces, according to witnesses.

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