Over 12,400 schools in eight countries in West and Central Africa have been shut down leaving 57 million children and adolescents without access to education, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) revealed.
According to a joint press statement signed by the NRC, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ahead of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the current figures of out-of-school children in the region has risen to 24.1 per cent, representing almost a quarter of the children who do not have access to education globally.
In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger more than half of all children are out of school.
In the last academic year the numbers of closed schools increased by 66 per cent due to learning facilities being direct targets of attacks by armed groups, or deserted for fear of attacks. Being displaced is also a contributing factor. When entire communities flee from armed violence, children’s access to education is cut off.
Maureen Magee, the Regional Director for NRC in Central and West Africa has urged leaders in the region to ensure full implementation of the Safe School Declaration. “Every child out of school, every day of learning lost, is one brick fewer to build peace and prosperity in the region,” she said.
In Nigeria, a Safe School Initiative was launched in 2014 however, the Federal Government unveiled a new plan to begin implementing it in states, local governments and schools’ host communities this year.
The statement revealed that the region could lose a whole generation of learners, “their future depends on the ability of governments to prioritise the rehabilitation, reopening and securing of damaged or destroyed schools, and to reinforce alternative learning solutions when that is not possible. Concrete measures should be taken by parties to the conflicts in the region to end the military use of schools,” it explained.
Millicent Mutuli, Director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa noted that learning institutions are not being spared from attacks. In May, HumAngle reported how Jida Primary School in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was attacked and looted. It was the fourth such incident and items like roofing materials, furniture and learning equipment that served 222 pupils were taken away by armed groups.
The three humanitarian organisations call on governments, armed forces, other parties to conflicts and the international community to take action to stop attacks and threats against schools, students and teachers, as well as to step up sustainable support for quality learning for every child in the region.
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