[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 5 March, 2004, 07:45 GMT
Trouble at Gabon president's school
By Daniel Mboungou Mayengue
BBC, Gabon

The Omar Bongo Technical High School is lifeless.
President Omar Bongo
President Bongo ordered the closure of the school which bears his name

It is normally vibrant with pupils in classrooms and the yard, but the students and teachers are now at home.

They will not return until a commission set up by the ministry of education to investigate the problems plaguing the school submits its report.

The authorities in Gabon, which oil has made one of Africa's richest countries, closed the school a month ago following student unrest.

Looting spree

Some of its pupils attacked students of neighbouring schools and passers-by to avenge the death of a sickly schoolmate.

He died after a fight with a pupil from the Melen Evangelical Grammar school.

I used to come first in English, but when one of the girls in my class managed to seduce the teacher, I started to get lower grades
Former pupil
In an exaggerated show of solidarity, the pupils moved into the Melen Evangelical Grammar and the Professional Computer Science School, threw stones at fellow pupils and smashed computers, photocopy machines and type writers, and destroyed files.

At least 10 people were injured including two policemen who were among a team called in to quell the violence.

In Rio, one of Libreville's largest areas, the pupils looted shops and smashed passing vehicles including three buses of the national transport company, Sogatra, which had been transporting them to and from school free of charge.

"We wanted to show to the relatives of our dead mate that we are hurting like they do," one of the pupils who took part in the violence told the BBC.

"We are Omar Bongo's offspring," said another pupil.

'Sex for grades'

Concerned about the escalation of violence, Education Minister Daniel Ona Ondo held separate meetings with the class prefects and the administrative and teaching staff at the school.

The meetings opened up a can of worms.

Broken desks
The school is falling apart

"The Omar Bongo High School is sinking," said the minister, after participants informed him that there was prostitution in the school.

The minister was informed that girls had sexual relations with teachers to get better grades and that expelled pupils offered bribes to remain in the school.

Professor Ondo also learnt that most classes have more than 100 pupils each and students over 30 years were enrolled in the school.

"Anyone can get admission into Omar Bongo Technical High School," said a final year pupil who identified himself as Patrick Otta.

"All you need is 50,000 CFA francs ($93)," he said.

"I have never been a bad pupil in English. In fact, I used to come first in English, but when one of the girls in my class managed to seduce the teacher, I started to get lower grades despite my constant efforts," said Thibault, a former pupil.

Promising head

The pupils of Omar Bongo Technical High School may feel proud that their school bears the president's name.

However, President Bongo called an urgent meeting of the council of ministers which decided to close the school and put in place a committee charged with its reorganization.

A new management team has since been appointed by presidential decree.

"The man selected as headmaster is young and admired by everybody, let's give him a chance to succeed, for his success shall be our success and his failure our failure," Professor Ondo said during the installation ceremony.

In response, the 50-year-old new headmaster, Salomon Cabinda, said: "My every day concern will be to do everything possible in order not to betray your trust."

But Mr Cabinda's task will not be easy.

Looking fresh and handsome in a dark-blue suit, he said: "I don't know what my priority will be. Perhaps I should start by cleaning up the weeds around the school."

Meanwhile, some pupils are wondering when their school will reopen.

"We don't even hear a rumour about the date - I hope it reopens soon," said Serge.

Gabon acts over school of shame
17 Feb 04  |  Africa
Sex scandal shames Gabon school
10 Feb 04  |  Africa
Gabon leader in beauty queen row
05 Feb 04  |  Africa
Country profile: Gabon
28 Feb 04  |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific