Ankatso 1« bloc 9, cite Ambohipo. many stuff needs to be repaired because our students’ accommodation is fucked… whether Ankatso or Ambohipo #urgent », a post on facebook by a student of Université d’Antananarivo mid February 2018.
Antananarivo is home of the primary university in Madagascar, an architectural emblem cradled in a valley. Next to it, the first unit of residences called Ankatso is home to 994 students. The conditions inside are hard and hazardous, but students have no choice and no voice.
Ankatso is on top of the hill, a well designed labyrinth of rooms, stairways, halls, a cantine and rooftop terraces that offer the visitor magnificent views of neighboring valleys, hills and marshland. The project was realized by a famous architect – Roland Simounet – in 1970 in order to accommodate 400-500 students.
The accommodation has been growing since then, each of the consecutive presidents of the republic except Mr. Hery R. has added or inaugurated a new site or building, none matches the original architecture nor standards.
CROUA (Centre Régional des Œuvres Universitaires d’Antananarivo) manages the current six accommodation sites. Mismanagement is evident, toilettes are clogged, pipes are leaking, water access is limited, haphazard homemade electrical wirings are all over, rotten dilapidated walls stink of humidity and doors broken. The students await an unannounced maintenance schedule.
A president, usually a current student, reports to CROUA on the number of inhabitants in a sector or floor. He/She is chosen by the residents of this sector and the point of contact for any grievance from the students. In addition, they enforce the rules set forth by CROUA and the respective tribe president.
A tribe president is a student chosen by his born tribe. In turn, these presidents report to CROUA of their needs within their respective student community.
To share a room here, the price per bed varies from 7,000ar (1.8euros) to 80,000ar (20euros) per year paid to CROUA. To rent a room, a one time bribe to a president of 3,000,000ar to 5,000,000ar is a must. 27% of the current population are squatters who used to be students or are in relation with one.
Students do not complain. Some are content, many don’t speak afraid of losing their refuge, others are pressured not to, while a few have tried once and gave up…
It is hard for a reporter to be emotionally detached from the subject under investigation, but amidst the stench of clogged toilettes and the tangle of wires and traffic of water gallons, it was impossible to accept the response: “this is normal, this is Madagascar”.
Normal is not risking your life every time you plug the heater to prepare dinner. Normal is not accepting being robbed on campus. Normal is sleeping under a roof sure it will not collapse. Normal is to have ownership of shared space, do the necessary to maintain it like home, and pass on to the next.
[a collaborative project with Safidy Andrianantenaina]