Insecurity has increased in Africa as several countries face coups and civil unrest. West Africa has been most affected as countries such as Burkina Faso, Guinea, Benin, Togo, and Mali have continued to face instability since 2021. The rising cases have brought about memories of the region’s instability in the 1990s and early 2000s. With no end in sight, these cases of rising instability have negatively affected education in the area and the continent’s economic growth.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past four years, the number of school closures due to insecurity has almost doubled, reaching more than 13,200 closed schools in eight countries in Central and West Africa. With a number of coups and civil unrest, education has been affected as schools are forced to close down for a period as uncertainty rises.
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According to Hassane Hamadou, NRC’s regional director in Central and West Africa, education is a lifeline for children. But for millions of children in Central and West Africa, insecurity means they will be stuck outside the classroom this coming school year, unable to learn. “Many will be forced to work, to join armed groups, or to get married, shattering their futures. The right to education is a fundamental right, regardless of the political and security situation of the country in which it is exercised. The signatory states of the Safe School Declaration must do their utmost to ensure its implementation and guarantee children a better future,” Hassane Hamadou said.
In fact, in some regions, schools are directly targeted by terrorist groups. According to data from the institutions, 147 incidents were reported across the region between January and August 2023. The situation worsens as some schools are deserted or abandoned following forced population displacements. Faced with conflict, families and teachers also flee. Schooling is abruptly interrupted for displaced children and children from host communities whose schools are still standing and are overcrowded.
Burkina Faso is one of the most affected countries, accounting for half of the school closures recorded in Central and West Africa, with more than 6,100 schools closed as of July 2023. Burkina Faso accounts for one million of the 2.5 million students affected in the region. The consequences of instability are immense.
According to Xavier Creach, Deputy Director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa, in a region where the protection of civilians and their access to basic services is increasingly threatened by insecurity and conflict, we have a collective duty to act to ensure that schools remain safe spaces for all forcibly displaced children and youth and those from host communities.
If matters are to continue, Africa’s economy as a whole will continue to be negatively affected as the region is crucial for growth. Additionally, the insecurity is to affect intra-African trade, which has been rising and pushing for one Africa. It is time for Africa to come together and tackle the issue of insecurity before it takes back the efforts of the African economy to develop and grow.