COVID-19 exasperating violence against children in Burkina Faso

 Abandoned school in Burkina Faso after a Jihadist attack Abandoned school in Burkina Faso after a Jihadist attack Philip Kleinfeld

07 July 2020

COVID-19 imposed schools’ shutdown in Burkina Faso have compounded the risk of violence against children

 Since 2017, under allegation of promoting Western-style education and government institutions, Burkina Faso has been increasingly torn apart by Jihadist-linked violence. According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) Report released in May and covering the 2017-2020 period, surging recrudescence is causing displacement and disrupting children’s access to education. Official data for Burkina Faso document 126 education-related attacks up to May 2020, including multiple intimidations, abductions, beatings, the killing of 17 teachers and sabotage of school facilities. The reiterated attacks to school personnel and facilities are sharply eroding the Burkinabe education system. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) reported that, by mid-2019, 2024 schools in Burkina Faso had been closed for insecurity. HRW, by also considering 2020, documented the shutdown of 2500 schools and estimated nearly 350.000 students being robbed of an education. Following the mounting fear of contagion due to the COVID-19 spread, schools nationwide were closed from March. 

But the pandemic implications on Burkinabe children goes beyond missed education opportunities. As reported by The New Humanitarian, more than half of the roughly 1 million Burkinabe displaced far from their families are 18 and under, and the shattering of schools has exposed them to horrific forms of exploitation and abuse, ranging from sexual violence to child marriage and labour. Being forced out of school, displaced children are left alone in unfamiliar places. Not even the remote schooling program initiated by the Burkinabe Ministry of Education is sheltering children from being exploited in menial work. Reportedly, Marie Yelkouni, coordinating civil society organisations fighting for women rights in Burkina Faso, illustrates how children are forced to work for under a dollar a day, generally washing clothes and selling goods. Allegedly, Lassina Sougue, heading the government’s humanitarian response in Sorou, has pointed out that extreme vulnerability of children drove to surging reports of sexual violence.


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Author: Gianmarco Italia; Editor: Barbara Caltabiano

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