News / Africa

Conflict Keeps Northern Mali Children from School

Refugees from the Malian town of Gao, which is now under the control of Islamist forces, pose at a private accommodation in the capital Bamako,  September 8, 2012.
Refugees from the Malian town of Gao, which is now under the control of Islamist forces, pose at a private accommodation in the capital Bamako, September 8, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Peter Tinti
— In Mali and throughout West Africa, the school year started a few weeks ago.  However, aid workers say the vast majority of children in the militant-controlled northern region are not able to go school -- which may help recruitment for local armed groups. 

The education ministry and international aid agencies say they are scrambling to meet the needs of children affected by the conflict. The region fell to al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in April.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says at least 450,000 northerners have fled into neighboring countries or into the government-held south since the start of the year.  Those who remain in the north are living under the strict rule of the militants.

“Information is coming out in bits and pieces, but we still don’t have the full scope of understanding of what’s going on for education in the north," explained Tom Mccormack, the Sahel Regional Director for aid group Save the Children USA. "But we’re very concerned that education is not being provided as it should for all children.  In addition, we’re concerned that funds that need to be made available to assist children, particularly those who have been displaced by the fighting, have not been made available, especially for education in this emergency response that we and other actors on the ground here are trying to respond to.”

Save the Children says education is out of reach for the majority of school children in the occupied territory.

The group is part of the U.N.-created Education Cluster, which is coordinating the emergency response in Mali.

The Education Cluster surveyed 25 organizations in the north.  Three-quarters said local schools have been vandalized, looted or destroyed.  Half of the organizations reported that teachers had fled to the south, while one-third reported that the schools are occupied by armed groups.  

Save the Children says flooding has damaged an additional 290 schools across the country, affecting 60,000 children. However, funding for assistance remains low.

“Last year’s consolidated humanitarian appeals process was funded at four percent," said Joa Keis, information manager and co-leader for the Education Cluster. " I think that given the potential for this emergency to turn into a chronic long-term emergency, I think it’s very important that donors realize the importance that education is going to play in maintaining vital social functions and the livelihoods of children throughout this ongoing emergency.”

The Education Cluster previously estimated that only 20 percent of 300,000 students have fled northern Mali.  They said the remaining 240,000 kids have little to no access to education, leaving them at risk of recruitment into armed groups.

Human rights groups say armed Islamist groups in the north are actively recruiting children as young as 12 years old into their ranks.  

The United Nations estimates that at least 175 children were recruited into armed groups between April and June of this year, although many people consider those estimates to be conservative.

Keis says the lack of school increases the risk.

“It’s been shown that out-of-school children are particularly vulnerable to falling into the hands of armed groups given the situation in northern Mali.  With the presence of several armed groups controlling the area it is particularly important that we use education as a means of protecting children from this vulnerability and the potential for ongoing use of child soldiers in northern Mali," Keis said.

Islamist militants in control of the north have been implementing their own harsh brand of Sharia law.

Teachers and local organizations say they have been on their own in reaching tough compromises with armed groups to keep the remaining schools operating.

Certain subjects, such as philosophy and biology, are often not allowed. Girls and boys must often be separated. Certain schools are only allowed to teach in Arabic, a language most of the pupils do not speak.

However, both students and teachers say they are determined to continue their education.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid