OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, Mar 23 (IPS) – More than one million children in Burkina Faso are currently affected by school closures with 6,134 schools closed in February 2023, an increase of more than 40% since the end of the last school year.
Nearly one in four schools nationwide are now out of service due to rampant insecurity and violence, which has forced nearly two million people to be displaced.
On the eve of the high-level conference on Education in emergenciesorganized by the European Commission and the United Nations Children’s Fund in Brussels, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Education Cluster in Burkina Faso and FONGIH, two umbrella entities representing 87 national and international organizations operating in the country, called for increased access to education for children left behind, whether they are internally displaced or live in landlocked areas.
“Only about a quarter of the children thrown out of school have received new classrooms. The majority are left without access to education, depriving them of their childhood and their chance to become adults and independent citizens,” said Hassane Hamadou, National Director of the NRC in Burkina Faso.
“The longer this situation drags on, the more serious it becomes, the more difficult it will be to reverse this trend and protect their future. The authorities of Burkina Faso as well as humanitarian and development organizations must urgently renew their efforts to stop this education haemorrhage.
Out of eight schools, only two are operational in the blocked town of Pama in the Est region, one of the three regions with the highest number of school closures along with the Sahel and the Boucle du Mouhoun. Six teachers and a few volunteers are currently serving more than 1,000 children in Pama.
“For those of us who are still here, it’s a very personal decision to stay,” said one teacher. “Education is a universal right, so we believe it is our duty to continue. But fear does not go away easily. Often we have to stop classes because we hear gunshots here and there.
The threats are heavy and the conditions are difficult, but we can and must overcome the challenges to help children who never wanted to be in this situation.
More than 31,000 teachers have been affected by the education crisis across the country, of whom around 6,300 have been redeployed so far to schools hosting large numbers of internally displaced students. The reopening or relocation of around 300 schools since January is a welcome step in the right direction.
However, it is now crucial to increase the use of the “double-shift approach” in operational schools, to set up more classrooms where possible and to speed up the reassignment of teachers to new ones. new sites in displacement areas.
This crisis has disproportionately affected girls. A study by Plan International found that girls are 2.5 times more likely to be kicked out of school than boys in a crisis situation. At the same time, ongoing efforts to help teachers meet the growing psychosocial needs of students often traumatized by displacement and conflict must be maintained and scaled up nationwide.
“Insecurity is a big reason why so many schools are closing, but food insecurity in the Sahel and Eastern regions is also a factor in school dropouts,” said Tin Tua director Yembuani Yves. Ouoba. “Ensuring that schools and non-formal education centers provide meals and that children are fed is an effective way to keep them in the system.”
“We are witnessing an accelerating assault on education. Teachers are threatened and parents are afraid. Children pay the heaviest price. When a child is out of school, they are more at risk of being exploited, of being the victim of violence and trafficking, and even of being recruited by armed groups,” said the UNICEF representative in Burkina Faso. , Sandra Lattouf.
“We welcome the effective partnership and collaboration with the Ministry of National Education, Literacy and Promotion of National Languages, which strengthens access to education in difficult contexts. We must act now so as not to lose the next generation and redouble our efforts to strengthen emergency solutions and alternative education.
Parties to the conflict must do more to protect school infrastructure from attack and not occupy school buildings. We welcome the upcoming inter-ministerial decree to set up national and regional committees responsible for implementing the Safe Schools Declaration and hope that they will contribute to making schools safe for all Burkinabè children.
- • At the end of February 2023, 6,134 schools were closed in Burkina Faso, an increase of 44% since May 2022 (4,258). This represents 24% of all academic structures in the country. (Source: Ministry of Education Monthly Statistical Report on Education in Emergencies of 28 February 2023) • Number of schools closed in other West and Central African countries due to insecurity: 3,285 in Cameroon, 1,762 in Mali, 1,344 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 878 in Niger, 181 in Nigeria, 134 in Chad and 13 in the Central African Republic (Source: Unprecedented school closures jeopardize the future of millions of people in West and Central Africa, NRC, UNHCR, UNICEF, Education Cannot Wait, March 2023). • The Boucle du Mouhoun, Est and Sahel regions of Burkina Faso are the most affected by school closures and each host between 1,000 and 1,200 closed schools. (Source: Ministry of Education Monthly Statistical Report on Education in Emergencies 28 February 2023) • School closures affect 1,050,172 students and 31,077 teachers. 262,388 of these children have so far returned to a formal classroom. (Source: idem) • Girls are 2.5 times more likely to be expelled from school than boys in crisis according to a 2020 study conducted in Mali and Burkina Faso (Adolescentes en crise, Voix du Sahel, Plan International, August 2020) • Two out of eight schools are currently operational in Pama, with 6 teachers and 6 volunteers serving more than 1,000 children. (Source: NRC interviews with Pama teachers, March 2023)
Marinated olivesis Advocacy Officer for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Burkina Faso
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