A new report warns that education is under attack in the Central African Republic, where armed groups loot schools, threaten teachers and students, and where nearly three years of inter-communal violence have made it too dangerous for many children to attend classes.
The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict report describes students walking to school in fear of being attacked or suffering invasions by armed men in their classrooms, threatening them and their teachers and damaging their schools.
Watchlist researcher and report author Janine Morna says the conflict has taken a heavy toll on an already weak educational system. “Insecurity has had a chilling effect on children’s access to education,” she says.
Armed groups have looted schools, taking desks and books to burn in lieu of firewood and metal roofs to sell for scrap. Schools that offer feeding programs have also had food supplies stolen.
While armed groups are responsible for attacks on schools, the study found that international peacekeepers have, in some instances, established temporary bases in school buildings.
Violence that erupted in December 2012 between Christian and Muslim armed groups shut most of the country’s schools for nearly two years. Watchlist says anecdotal evidence shows that when they reopened, Muslim students did not return at the same rates as before the crisis. The report attributes this, in part, to fewer Muslims remaining in the CAR, and those who have stayed are sometimes too afraid to leave their areas to attend schools.
In a country where more than 40 percent of the population is under age 14 and over 60 percent of the people are illiterate, diminished access to education could have long-term effects. The report recommends that CAR’s transitional government and the international community take steps to strengthen the safety and security of schools.