Burkina Faso: the country where it’s too dangerous to go to school

Desks and chairs are piled up in the corner of a school with no children. On the blackboard, the date has been written down: 15 December 2018.

The headteacher says the school just outside the town of Foubé in northern Burkina Faso, which the BBC visited in March, had closed after an attack by armed men in the area.

“A lot of schools have been torched. Teachers have been attacked and some even killed,” says Samuel Sawadogo, explaining that most of his staff fled in the wake of the raid.

“When a teacher is killed, no-one does anything – so we have to save ourselves.”

In the three areas affected by an upsurge in violence in Burkina Faso, 1,111 out of 2,869 schools have closed in recent months. These regions – the North, the Sahel and the East – are in the north of the country that borders Mali and Niger where jihadist militants have operated for several years. In the province of Soum, in Sahel Region, 352 schools are now closed.

More than 150,000 children are affected by these closures – a staggering number in a country where education is already an issue. In 2016, only 57.9% of children finished primary school.

Mr Sawadogo says the security forces have failed to protect the community, but he remains hopeful that his school will be able to reopen soon.

Parents scared

A visit to various schools in different areas paints a complex picture: the reasons why they close or why they are empty vary.

Some schools, especially in the Sahel province, are directly targeted by Islamist militants, who are against Western education. Others, like the one in Foubé, are closed by teachers worried that they will be targets.

A number of schools are open but empty because parents are scared their children will be attacked on their way to class.

Near Foubé, we find another school, which is nominally open but its classrooms are empty.

“I don’t think all the children will come back,” a teacher at the school, Joseline Ouedraogo, tells the BBC.

“But if some of them come back, we’ll do our best so that they can catch up on the time lost,” she says.

Read full article