DAKAR (Reuters) – More than one million children and 31,000 teachers have been unable to return to their classrooms in Burkina Faso due to violence and insecurity as the West African nation starts another academic year on Monday, UNICEF said.
About 6,100 schools, or at least one out of four, was shut on the first day of the school year, UNICEF said.
The junta that seized power in a military coup last year has struggled improve security in the country. Indeed, data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a U.S.-based crisis-monitoring group, shows that violence nationwide has only increased since the coup.
“Having so many children still unable to return to school due to violence and insecurity, and so many schools closed, is very upsetting,” John Agbor, UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso, said in the statement.
Burkina Faso has been struggling to contain Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who have killed thousands and displaced over two million people in the country, more than half of them children.
More than 3.8 million children in total are still due to return to school in Burkina Faso, including in areas affected by conflict, UNICEF said, adding it was working with authorities and other partners to help facilitate access to education, including programmes such as lessons by radio.
The violence is part of a regional insurgency that has also plagued neighbouring Mali and Niger where conflict has interrupted children’s education for years in one of the poorest corners of the world.
(Reporting by Reuters Newsroom; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Bernadette Baum)