Education Under Threat: Conflict in Burkina Faso Compromising Learning Opportunities

Education Under Threat: Conflict in Burkina Faso Compromising Learning Opportunities
Primary school girls lie on the floor of their classroom during an emergency attack simulation in Dori, Sahel region, Burkina Faso, February 3, 2020. By early March 2020, over 2,500 schools had closed in Burkina Faso due to the armed conflict. © 2020 Olympia De Maismont/Getty Images

A report just released by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), a partner of Human Rights Watch, highlights the worrisome escalation in violence targeting Burkina Faso’s educational institutions in recent years. The research states that there was a marked uptick in assaults on schools, students, and instructors from 2022 to 2023 nationwide.

From 2020 to 2021, there were 148 recorded attacks against schools; nevertheless, throughout these two years alone, there were around 270 attacks, according to GCPEA data. There were 99 recorded attacks in 2022 alone, which led to the closure of 31 schools and damage to another 53. The fact that arson was committed in over 50% of these cases is disturbing and shows how serious and destructive the attackers were. The bulk of these attacks have been linked to different armed factions that operate within Burkina Faso.

Additionally highlighted in the paper are the findings of Human Rights Watch, which have meticulously recorded the effects of these attacks, especially those carried out by armed Islamist groups, beginning in 2017. The intimidation of parents and kids and the murder, beating, and kidnapping of educators are only a few of the horrible things that these gangs have done. In addition to deliberately damaging, destroying, and looting schools, they have successfully disrupted education and sown terror in communities.

Islamist armed groups invaded Burkina Faso from neighboring Mali in 2016, which led to an upsurge of bloodshed. Since then, violent conflicts have escalated between these organizations and the Burkina Faso military, particularly with Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimeen and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Human rights atrocities committed by either side have worsened an already catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

This conflict’s consequences have been catastrophic. The death toll among civilians is in the thousands, and over two million have been forcibly displaced. According to a UN study from October 2023, one million Burkinabe children were kept out of school because of the continuous instability in the country. With over 6,100 schools closed by spring of 2023, Burkina Faso was responsible for about half of all closed schools in Central and West Africa, according to a separate report from the Norwegian Refugee Council in June of that year.

Another disturbing tendency that was highlighted in the GCPEA report was the militarization of schools. In 2022 and 2023, there were a minimum of eleven events where schools were used as bases of operations by various armed organizations, militias, and government forces. Not only does this violate kids’ right to an education, but it also makes schools easy targets during conflicts, putting pupils at greater danger.

In 2017, Burkina Faso responded to these serious developments by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration. During times of armed conflict, this international agreement seeks to promote actions to prevent attacks on schools and their students as well as to lessen the impact of those attacks after they occur. The ongoing bloodshed, however, makes it all the more critical that all warring factions keep their word and promptly end their assaults on schools. Everyone has the inherent right to an environment free from physical and psychological harm, including students and teachers.

Promoting the execution of the Safe Schools Declaration should be a top priority while the world community keeps an eye on Burkina Faso. Rebuilding communities and promoting peace in the region need ensuring access to education in a secure setting, which is also a moral responsibility.


Related Posts

Illuminating the Promise of Africa.

Receive captivating stories direct to your inbox that reveal the cultures, innovations, and changemakers shaping the continent.