The war against schools in the Sahel

The French RFI radio programme “7 milliards de voisins” (7 billion neighbours) dedicated a special edition to the “The war against schools in the Sahel.” Several hundred schools in conflict-affected areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have been closed due to the permanent threat of jihadist attacks. How can communities prevent armed groups from breaking into schools? How can ensure that children in these conflict-affected areas going to school? How can international partners help rebuild educational services? Ibrahim Ag Assarid, founding director and teacher of the “École du sable” (School of Sand), delivered some first-hand experiences about the many challenges he faced when re-opening a school near Mopti in central Mali where the large majority of teachers had left. In his contribution, SWAC Secretariat Director Laurent Bossard noted that the epicentre of the conflict has moved from northern Mali to a smaller cross-border area shared by Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. However, this area is much more populous and population growth could undermine efforts to stabilise the areas in the long term. “The population in these areas will double within the next 20 years. The education of girls must remain a top priority in order to reverse this demographic trend,” Mr Bossard explained. Beyond Boko Haram’s ideology against Western education, current education challenges have many underlying root causes, which must be analysed according to local context. Education will help empower girls and women in countries that don’t protect the basic human rights of its women and girls.