Sahel: children missing school due to conflict and COVID restrictions

Children practice sheltering in the event of an armed attack at a primary school in Dori, Burkina Faso Children practice sheltering in the event of an armed attack at a primary school in Dori, Burkina Faso UNICEF

19 October 2020

Along with COVID-19 restrictions, education continues to be hampered by “growing insecurity, repeated displacement, and poverty” in the region

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), over 12 million children have missed up to 4 months of school across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger due to conflict and COVID-19 restrictions. During the 2019- 2020 school year, over 4,000 schools remained closed due to insecurity alone, preventing over 776, 000 children from attending. This is almost twice as much as in 2018 – 2019.

Maureen Magee, Regional Director for NRC in Central and West Africa has expressed concern over these statistics saying, “Too many children whose lives are already devastated by conflict, now watch their future hang by a thread.” The NRC have recorded 90 attacks on education facilities in the Central Sahel between January and July 2020 alone. Burkina Faso experienced the highest number of attacks with over 40 reported incidents, including lootings, arsons, abductions, threats, and killing of teachers.

On 7 October, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued its first ever Presidential Statement dedicated solely to protecting children’s education from attack. In its concern for the situation in Sahel, the Statement encouraged for the monitoring of attacks to have a more regional approach, which is critical as perpetrators operate across national borders. Furthermore, the Statement proposed a number of steps to protecting education in the Sahel Region, including endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration; a political commitment to protect schools during armed conflict. In light of these initiatives, the NRC have expressed that  “Only real political commitments commensurate with the education stakes in the region will enable children to turn over a new leaf and write a brighter chapter for the next school year.”  


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Author: Catherine Gregoire

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