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Burundi is a country in East Africa which borders on Ruanda in the north, Tanzania in the west and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the east. The official languages are Kirundi and French. Burundi measures 27.834 km² and has approximately 10,5 million citizens. It is therefore one of the smallest but one of the most densely populated (350 citizens per km²) countries in East Africa.
The Kingdom of Burundi, which can be traced back to the sixteenth century, was exploited by many different foreign forces in the course of the colonial era. Both the Germans who took possession of the area of Ruandi-Urundi in East Africa from 1899 to 1919 and the Belgians who occupied the country until its independence from Ruandi-Urundi in 1962, worked the authority within the framework of the deputy monarchy. The subdivision and categorisation of the citizens into the ethnic groups of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa was introduced in the course of the bureaucracy through the colonial forces. The ethnic belonging came to be the essential factor concerning the access to education, work and resources. Ruanda and Burundi declared their independence on the same day in 1962, yet through the ethnic seperation the population remains devided.
After the dependence there were several violent and cruel disputes between Hutu and Tutsi, whereby the Tutsi consolidated their power. After the Hutu attempted a coup in 1972 the Tutsi elite destroyed almost the entire intellectual Hutu elite, thus thousands of people fled to Tanzania. Throughout there hae been violent disputes but only in 1993 the violence escalated.
Hutu rebel groups such as the FDD and FNL revolted against the Tutsi government after the murder of the first Hutu president Melchior Ndadaye. On the whole, approximately 300.000 people died during the civil war. The conflict was officially reconciled in 2005 after a trial led by the UN and South Africa. However, several rebel groups such as the oldest and biggest Hutu group FNL remained active until 2008 which made the country’s development even more difficult. Burundi’s social structure was nearly completely destroyed by the war. As a result, since 1993 about a sixth of the population has fled to the neighbouring countries.
Burundi has a low state of urban development which is also reflected in its economic structure. Hence, the primary sector dominates the country’s trade profile. Due to the growing population, nutrient-poor land and the subsitenzce-economy, the productivity of the agricultural sector however equals zero.
Burundi’s little economic development becomes especially apparent by different development indicators. The UNPD lists Burundi in the Human Development Index on position 180 out of 187 countries and in the World Hunger Index the nutrition situation in Burundi is classified as „grave“, therefore Burundi holds the last position, together with Iraq and Eritrea. Thus the nutrition situation remains critical as does the infrastructure remain in a wretched condition, around 70% of the population live below the national poverty line.
During the civil war between 1993 and 2005 a lot of knowledge was lost and today 65% of the population is younger than 24 years, which puts pressure on the country’s education system. However, Burundi’s economy remains weak due to the poor access to education and working opportunities. Which is a direct result of the war.
In the last few months there has been a lot of news about President Pierre Nkurunziza‘s controversial third candidacy, which led to a massive protest wave in Burundi. The protests ran violently and more than one hundred civilians became victims of the police. After a failed coup Nkurunziza was reelected for the third time in 2015. The approval for the governing party CNDD-FDD remains high, especially in the rural regions of the country which is to be judged critically due to violation by the Burundian secret service and violent intimidation by the Imbonerakure (the party’s youth militia). Ten years after the end of the civil war the conditions have only improved step by step. The Burundian government led their country increasingly authoritarian after the Arusha Accords. Many of the donor countries such as Germany stopped their development aid due to the protests and the authorities‘ reaction. The stabilisation of the civilian population is of great importance with regard to the political situation to ensure the citizens of Burundi keep participating in their country‘s further development. Which is exactly the approach SOG and its scholarship are taking.
The riots in Burundi haven’t stopped since 2015, the beginning of Nkurunziza’s third ministry. There are demonstrations and violent riots happening over and over again. Since the beginning of the demonstrations, 300.000 people have left the country, more than 500 died, even 90 in only one day in December 2016. Shortly after that the minister of the environment Emmanuel Niyonkuru was shot. In July seven opposition parties were suspended because as per the Interior Minister they didn’t act properly and haden’t given the government a total list of their members as well as a list of those in leading positions. The leader of the CDPs (Conseil des Patriotes) responded to these events that, even when they had been an „official“ party, the leading parties couldn’t meet with their members, that members were harassed and sometimes even killed. These are characteristics of a dictatorial one-party state with no public space for an opposition. Another characteristic is President Nkurunziza’s fight against critical voices and the media, which is best shown in an example: July 22th was the commemoration day for Jean Bigirimana who used to criticise the Head of State and who had been missing for one year to that day. His death cannot be declared because there is no proof, however the circumstances of his disappearance are very mysterious.
Particularly Burundi‘s education system is still debilitated by the outcome of the civil war. Schools in rural regions suffer from unfair distribution of funds and accoutrements. The curriculum usually communicates „western“ and christian values. Additionally, the classes are often too crowded, especially in higher education and are often interrupted by social riots. Since 2005, primary education is free what allows many children to go to school but only 10% of the children take advantage of a higher education afterwards. Today there are at least a few „Community Colleges“ that are built and maintained by local communities, that offer a higher education which 48% of the students finish with a degree. Thus, in the long term it means wealthier communities, which are often located in the city, are in a more privileged position concerning the education system. This is why the average duration of a higher education only takes 2,5 years.
The higher education system is quite one-sided. Only about 1% of the 18-22 year olds go to a university. All in all, there are four public and eight private universities and departments with different study offers, most of them are located in the capital Bujumbura.
The Bologna reform in Europe also has been an example for the Burundian education system. Therefore all of the universities offer B.A. and M.A. courses of studies since the change in 2011/2012. The change caused difficulties in european institutions, likewise in Burundi. The separation of the academic year in terms is still problematic and not completely implemented. Additionally, there is an evaluation mechanism within the university structures missing whereby quality assurance is neglected. There’s hardly research done in university, nor is it. Cooperations with other countries lack as well. In general corruption is a constant problem in Burundi thus too in the higher education system which makes a professionalization essential.
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