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Science - Education

Togo's new university opens in borrowed buildings

Misanet / IRIN, 27 January - Togo has just opened its second university in the northern town of Kara, but the government can not afford to build a campus for it yet, so its lecturers and students are having to make do with the buildings of a former teacher training college.

The government laid the foundation stone of Kara University four years ago, but it is still sitting in an empty field.

Kara, 420 km north of the capital Lomé, is close to the home village of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma. The former military officer has ruled this West African country of five million people with a stern hand since he came to power in a coup 37 years ago.

The new university is due to reduce overcrowding at Togo's only other university in Lomé. This was built in 1970 for 6,000 students, but currently has to cope with more than 14,000.

However, Togo's cash-strapped government has been starved of European Union aid for more than 10 years because of President Eyadéma's poor record on democracy and human rights and the funds to actually build the new Kara University have never materialised.

When Prime Minister Koffi Sama formally inaugurated Kara University's first academic year last Friday, he did so on what is intended to be a temporary campus with just five small lecture theatres.

Classes at the establishment, which offers courses in economics, management, history geography, modern languages and biological sciences began on 21 January.

Remote from the sophistication of the capital city, Kara may be, but in this poor country, where per capita gross domestic product is less than US$ 400, one attraction of the new university is that its annual tuition fees of just US$ 50 are half those charged by its counterpart in Lomé.

During the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Sama appealed to international donors to help build a new campus for the university.

According to the United Nations 2003 develoment yearbook, only 58.4 percent of Togolese over the age of 15 are literate.

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