Fifty-seven million children, adolescents and youth are barred from attending school in the Central and West Africa region, representing 24.1 per cent of the 236 million out of school worldwide, warn the Giving hope For them (GHFT), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a report published on eve of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.
“Every child out of school, every day of learning lost, is one brick fewer to build peace and prosperity in the region,” said Maureen Magee, Regional Director for GHFT in Central and West Africa. “In this context of relentless violence and families repeatedly uprooted from their homes, the leaders of the Central and West African Region must do their utmost to ensure the full implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration and protect every child’s right to go to school.”
The number of school closures has spiked in eight countries of the region, with over 12,400 schools closed by the end of the 2021-22 school year*. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger more than half of all children and adolescents do not have access to education. Over the last school year, the number of closed schools increased by 66 per cent in the Central Sahel region alone. Schools are either the direct target of attacks by non-state armed groups or deserted by students in fear of attacks. Violence also forces entire communities to lose their resources and flee, cutting off children and adolescents’ access to education.
The region is facing an unprecedented challenge to ensure there is not a whole generation of lost learners. Their future depends on the ability of governments to prioritise the rehabilitation, reopening and securing of damaged or destroyed schools, and to reinforce alternative learning solutions when that is not possible. Concrete measures should be taken by parties to the conflicts in the region to end the military use of schools.
“Sadly, learning institutions have not been spared from attacks by armed groups. Maintaining access to safe, quality education for all children, including refugees, is crucial,” said Millicent Mutuli, Director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa.
International funding to the education sector is also often among the lowest of the humanitarian responses in the Central and West Africa region. In 2021, donor governments provided less than a quarter of the funds needed to meet emergency education needs, half of the 2018 allocation. In Burkina Faso, which has a third of all schools currently closed in the region, the amount allocated by donors so far this year represents barely 20 US Cents per month per displaced child under the age of 15.
As tomorrow marks the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the three humanitarian organisations call on governments, armed forces, other parties to conflicts and the international community to take concerted action to stop attacks and threats against schools, students and teachers, as well as to step up sustainable support for quality learning for every child in the region.
GHFT assist displaced people in refugee camps and the surrounding host communities in Garissa and Turkana counties.
Despite insecurity in Somalia, there is still pressure on Somali refugees to return home. We are concerned that Somalis returning through the Voluntary Repatriation Programme risk becoming internally displaced in Somalia or are forced to return to Kenya. We work together with our country operation in Somalia to advocate for genuine returns, and to help refugees make informed choices to ensure that they return safely and with dignity to a genuine opportunity to re-establish their livelihoods.
GHFT provide displaced and vulnerable children and youth with basic education in Dadaab and Kakuma. Our education teams in both refugee and host community schools:
- Provide vocational training where students receive professional certification in trades like computer skills, journalism, media and photography, electrical and solar installation, hairdressing and beauty therapy and tailoring and dress making
- Make sure that children and youth who have missed out on education can catch up with their peers, through accelerated learning programmes.
- Provide children and teachers with learning materials.
- Conduct continuous professional development for teachers.