In the Sahel, teachers go back to school in fear

On the occasion of International Teachers' Day, we would like to highlight the daily lives of those who work in sometimes very difficult security conditions, as is currently the case in the Sahel. Despite the risks, they remain dedicated and committed to their work.

The start of the 2021-2022 school year is taking place in a context of security and health crisis in Mali. On the eve of the students' return to school, Daouda Doumbia, Director of the Mopti Education Academy - where Aide et Action is implementing two projects - talks about the current context: The security crisis has affected all development sectors in the Mopti region, including education. The right to education is now under threat in the central regions of Mali, where the Mopti region has become the epicentre of the security crisis, resulting in the closure of hundreds of schools and other learning facilities and the displacement of teachers and people from the affected areas to relatively safe locations."

Teachers targeted by terrorists

In the Mopti region, since 2015, the education system has been severely affected by insecurity and intercommunity conflicts. As a result, the Académie d'Enseignement has recorded, as of 31 July 2021, 263 non-functional schools affecting 17,449 children (8,733 boys and 8,716 girls) and 437 teachers. 

Armed groups threaten teachers in areas under their influence. Over the past three years, several teachers have been abducted by armed groups in the localities of Ténenkou, Djenné and Korientzé. Even today, four serving teachers are still being held captive by anti-school armed groups. Worse, the closure of schools is not always enough to protect communities; school infrastructure has been destroyed and school furniture and teaching materials have been burnt in some localities.

In this extremely tense context, being a teacher in the Sahel region is sometimes an act of bravery. In Niger and Burkina Faso, the situation is also deteriorating over time, with 10% of schools in the latter country currently closed for security reasons. 

"A threat at the door of our school"

"I am very afraid to start the new school year because my school is located 35 kilometres from Manni and 5 kilometres from Mopienga, where the terrorists set fire to the school in the localitysays Assibidi Lankoande, headmaster of Dassari Public Primary School. This is a threat to the door of our school. We need security measures to enable us to work in peace. If nothing is done, there is a real risk that our 180 students will be on the loose. Our expectations of the authorities are to secure the area so that classes can resume. As for our partners, we are asking them to continue their support like Aide et Action through its projects in favour of education. Last year, our school, under the threat of terrorists, was closed before the end of the school year and thanks to our partners, notably Aide et Action, our students in exam classes were moved to Manni, the main town of the commune, to prepare for the end-of-year exams. We had a success rate of 100% in the Primary School Certificate (CEP). "

While teachers are still too often alone and powerless in the face of their difficulties in the field, urgent and essential measures and resources are needed to help them in their mission and to give them, at last, the means to become the pillars of an inclusive and quality education system. More than ever, in this time of crisis, the educational and social role of the teacher deserves to be supported and highlighted.

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