A UNICEF report published recently estimates that about two million children in Central and West Africa have no access to education due to violence directed against their schools.
Schools are targets. In Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, there are areas where children’s right to education has been directly undermined due to attacks against students, teachers and schools.
In a report that UNICEF made known last week it reads that “opposition to what is seen as a Western-style education, especially with regard to girls, is central to many of the disputes that plague the region”. Therefore, these attacks are increasing.
According to this text, Cameroon is experiencing a dramatic situation with 4437 schools closed in the northwest and southwest of the country since June. There are 609 children who cannot go to school. Between April and June, in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, they closed more than 3,000 schools due to episodes of violence, multiplying the previous numbers by six. In Niger, the increase in that period was 21%.
On this, the organization’s deputy executive director, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, told the ISP news agency that “deliberate attacks and growing threats against education – the very foundation of peace and prosperity have launched a dark cloud over children, families and communities across the region”.
The numbers of attacks on schools and their consequences are part of a bigger picture, as Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF regional director for these regions, points out: “with more than 40 million children between six and 14 years of age not having their right to education in Central and West Africa, it is crucial that governments and their partners work to diversify the options available for quality education”, she stressed to the same news agency.
Poirier considers that culturally appropriate models together with innovative, inclusive and flexible approaches, which achieve quality standards of learning, can help reach many children, especially in conflict situations.
The report adds another reason for concern: “Children who do not go to school face a gift full of dangers. Compared to their schooled peers, they are at a much greater risk of recruitment by armed groups. Girls face a high risk of gender-based violence and are more often forced into childhood marriages, with subsequent pregnancies and births that threaten their lives and health”.