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Faith Nyasuguta

A quarter of schools are now shut down in Burkina Faso after an increase in fighting between militants and the government, according to a new report that warns of a looming education crisis in the region.

Over the past year, the number of schools closed in the West African country shot up by almost a third to hit 6,149, affecting close to 1 million students.

Burkina Faso, described as experiencing the “world’s most neglected crisis”, has suffered years of violence, which has worsened since a coup last year. The new military government launched an offensive against militant groups that has seen allegations of human rights abuses on all sides.

Having such a large number of children out of school because of insecurity risks the future of Burkina Faso’s next generation,” said Dr John Agbor, Burkina Faso country director for the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef.

 “Children out of school are more likely to be forced to work, to be recruited into armed groups, or to be victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, gender-based violence or early marriage.”

Launched on Wednesday, the report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and UN agencies, said Burkina Faso now accounted for almost half of the 13,200 schools closed because of insecurity in central and west Africa over the past four years.

Anika Krstic, NRC’s country director for Burkina Faso, also noted that conditions in the schools that had remained open, were poor and just a bunch of teachers were left. 

“Those who have stayed say it is a very personal decision. They feel it is their duty to carry on, but it comes at a heavy price. Gunshots sometimes interrupt classes or play,” said Krstic.

The report, which looked at data for eight countries, urged governments and the international community to focus on making schools safe and prioritizing negotiations to ensure school buildings occupied during fighting are quickly vacated.

The groups noted that only 3.9% of funding appeals for schooling in the region had been met by donors.The report found that while many schools had to be abandoned because of nearby fighting, some were targeted.

In Nigeria, 52 schools have been attacked by militants since January; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has seen a sharp rise in violence in the eastern part of the country, the number is 31.

Protecting schools from threats and violence is a critical step to breaking the cycle of crisis and reducing the likelihood of future conflicts,” said Felicité Tchibindat, Unicef’s regional director for west and central Africa. “Schools should be safe places for children.”

Last week, Save the Children’s regional director of advocacy and campaigns, Vishna Shah, announced that armed violence in the Sahel “is robbing children of their education and futures”

“Attacks on schools must stop now. Children and teachers need to be able to attend school without fear of violence.”


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Faith Nyasuguta

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