Thousands of students demonstrate in Burkina Faso

Thousands of students on Monday took to the streets of Burkina Faso's capital burning tires and chanting in support of teachers who are demanding better conditions.

Angry students also entered the education ministry, destroyed computers, smashed windows and burned documents on the streets outside.

Ministry spokesman Boubacar Sy said Monday that angry students turned everything "upside down" in the education ministry. Firefighters rushed to the building after smoke was seen rising from it.

Some demonstrators seized buses and forced drivers to drive around gathering more students.

Those in the streets carried whistles and chanted, "We want teachers back in class." Some were demanding the departure of the education minister, Albert Ouedraogo.

Teachers launched strikes last week to ask for better living conditions. Students had also demonstrated in the capital and across the country last week for the same cause, fearing that the absence of teachers would lead to the cancellation of their final exams.

"We want the government to know that investing in education is important and they have to listen to the teachers' demands", protester Adama Traore said.

Teachers' group representative Emmanuel Dembele told The Associated Press that teachers have made their claims clear since Jan. 4.

"So far nothing has been done, only promises, promises we are not buying again," he said. "It is up to the government, if they make positive steps we are going to resume classes."

These protests come more than a month after a mutiny had threatened President Blaise Compaore's 24-year rule.

A mutiny by soldiers started April 14 when members of the presidential guard began firing into the air, demanding unpaid housing allowances. By April 18, soldiers in several cities north, south, east and west of Ouagadougou joined in and students followed suit.

Compaore tried to stem the unrest by dissolving the government and removing the country's security chiefs. He also named himself defense minister.

This year's uprisings in the impoverished West African nation began in late February when students in Koudougou protested a young man's death in police custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations he had been mistreated while in custody fueled protests in which at least six people died and buildings were torched.

Experts say hostilities in the landlocked West African country have been simmering for a long time.

Compaore, a former army captain, came to power in a 1987 coup in which Burkina Faso's first president, Thomas Sankara, was killed. Compaore was re-elected in November in a vote that the opposition said was rigged.