Today, in Burkina Faso, the schooling of thousands of children is threatened by rising insecurity. Aide et Action, which has been working in the country since 2001, is concerned about the closure of more than 1,300 schools and the impact of this situation on the future of Burkinabe youth.
Since 2015, terrorism has been gaining ground in Burkina Faso. On 2 October 2019, the Minister of Women, National Solidarity, Family and Humanitarian Action, Hélène Marie Laurence Ilboudo, announced that 486,360 people have been displaced by terrorist attacks. If this trend continues, this number could reach 650,000 people by December 2019. Among those forced to abandon their villages and possessions are many students.
Indeed, the education sector in Burkina Faso is severely affected by the security crisis in the country. 48 primary schools and 14 post-primary and secondary schools have been requisitioned to temporarily accommodate displaced persons. Worse still, the number of schools closed or burnt down is increasing alarmingly. In mid-October 2019, the education authorities in Burkina Faso recorded 1,305 schools closed in 7 of the country's 13 regions. Public schools are the most affected (1,211 primary schools closed, representing 92% of the closures) and all levels of education are concerned: pre-school, primary, post-primary and secondary.
"Psychosis has spread among teachers and parents
According to Kafao Zoungrana, in charge of school statistics at the Provincial Directorate of National Education, Literacy and Promotion of National Languages of the Gnagna province, Eastern region: "The start of the 2019-2020 school year went well. All the schools in the province were open, but after the attack on the gendarmerie in the commune of Ligtougou, in mid-October, teachers and parents became psychotic. Worse, the terrorists posted messages in schools at night ordering them to stop all educational activities. This led to the closure of the schools in the commune. These are preventive closures. The security authorities promise to open them, but only when the conditions are right. "
For Dieudonné Guiatin, a teacher in the public primary school of Kolonkomi, Bilanga commune: " The situation is worrying. We are continuing the activities but we are very worried. Nobody is safe. "
The closure of schools jeopardises the continuation of schooling for 169,139 pupils, including 79,228 girls, in primary school; 33,383 pupils, including 14,714 girls, in post-primary and secondary school; 72 children, including 34 girls, in pre-school. Of these, 17,705 pupils, including 7,986 girls, were lucky enough to be accommodated in host schools. These displacements of pupils raise the problem of their accommodation and the risk, especially for girls, of being exposed to other dangers.
Insecurity affects 6,313 teachers, including 2,116 women (2 in preschool; 5,501 in primary and 773 in post-primary and secondary). Some teachers have been technically unemployed for more than two school years. At the start of the October 2019 school year, the Ministry of National Education, Literacy and Promotion of National Languages initiated a redeployment operation and the majority of these teachers were transferred to other areas.
"It will take years to get back on track".
Madame Kindo was posted in the Soum province, Sahel region. For the past two school years, she has joined her husband in Ouagadougou following the destruction of his school by terrorists. " We received death threats at school. We discovered the poster in the morning at school and the following night the school was burnt down, everything went up in smoke. We left our posts to join our families while waiting for other postings or for the school to be secured and rehabilitated. But alas, terrorism is gaining ground. I have just been posted to the Centre East, on the border with Togo. I pray for my safety."
For Mr. Ferdinand Somé, a teacher in the North region, " the situation is dramatic. Our education system has taken a terrible blow and it will take years to recover. We have fled our school to escape death. "
Indeed, despite the security operations of the defense forces, terrorists continue to destroy schools. For Aide et Action, which has been operating in Burkina Faso since 2001, and although our areas of intervention are not directly affected by the security crisis, this situation is extremely worrying. Through the 5 projects we are currently running in the country, we are trying to defend the right to education for all and support the most vulnerable populations.
Photo credit: Isabelle Merny