Over a million children are out of school in Burkina Faso following the closure of thousands of schools and learning facilities across the country in February.
This has led to a 40 percent increase in the number of children out of school, since the end of the last year in Dec. 2022, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
The organisation added that one out of four schools in the country was either destroyed due to deliberate violent attacks on schools and learning facilities, or is currently out of service due to learners and teachers fearing for their lives.
Hassane Hamado, NRC’s country director in Burkina Faso, describes the situation as an ‘educational haemorrhage’ stating that, “the longer this situation drags on, the graver it becomes, the harder it will be to reverse this trend and protect their futures.”
Attacks on schools in Burkina Faso
Since 2017, terror groups have targeted teachers and learning facilities in Burkina Faso in a bid to rid the country of western education and government institutions.
For seven years now, civilians and soldiers in the country are reported to be constantly attacked and killed by terror groups that have become frequent in their attacks. The report adds that these attacks are more rampant in the north and in the east, killing thousands and forcing over two million people to flee their homes.
Out of eight schools, only two are operational in the blockaded town of Pama in the East region, the NRC says. It is one of three regions with the highest number of school closures along with Sahel and Boucle du Mouhoun.
Six teachers and a few volunteers are currently serving over 1,000 children in Pama.
The Ministry of Education also stated that more than 31,000 teachers have been affected by the school closures nationwide.
One of the teachers quoted by NRC says that, “for those of us who are still here, it’s a very personal decision to stay. Education is a universal right, so we feel it’s our duty to carry on. But fear doesn’t go away easily.”
“Often, we have to stop classes because we hear gunshots here or there. Threats loom large, and conditions are tough, but we can and must overcome challenges to assist children who never wished to be put in this situation.”
Education under attack in West and Central Africa
As of Sept. 2022, over 12,400 schools in eight countries in West and Central Africa had been shut down leaving over 57 million children and adolescents without access to education, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) revealed.
Aside from deliberate attacks on schools and teachers, displacements and food insecurity in the region is also a major factor in the increasing numbers of out-of-school children.
“The region could lose a whole generation of learners,” Maureen Magee, the regional director for NRC in West and Central Africa says, adding that “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.”
Hamado, NRC’s country director in Burkina Faso also calls on authorities, and humanitarian and development organisations to renew their efforts, “only about a quarter of the children driven out-of-school have been given new classrooms. The majority are left without access to education, robbing them of their childhood and of their chance to become independent adults and citizens.”
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