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.
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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid