One in three children not at school in troubled Central African Republic

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies

A refugee girl from the Central African Republic at a temporary learning space supported by UNICEF in Chad Picture: UNICEF/Manuel Moreno


Hundreds of thousands of children in the Central African Republic are missing out on education as schools struggle to reopen due to violence, displacement and a shortage of teachers, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF has said.

One in four primary schools in the conflict-hit country – around 500 – are not functioning and a third of school-age children are not going to school, the agency said yesterday.

Central African Republic has been beset by violence between mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militias since the rebels ousted the then president in early 2013.

While many observers hope the recent election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera will help end the unrest, the security situation remains fragile, according to UN agencies.

“Resuming schooling is a challenge when around 20% of the population (4.6 million) has been displaced,” said UNICEF’s Central African Republic representative Mohamed Malick Fall.

“There are also security and access issues, the risks for children travelling to school, and a lack of civil servants and teachers, who fled,” Fall told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The conflict has uprooted more than 400,000 people within the country and forced almost half a million to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

UNICEF is providing teaching materials and giving catch-up lessons to tens of thousands of uprooted children, while many of the displaced are volunteering to teach, Mr Fall said.

Former child soldiers released by the anti-balaka militia run towards a transit centre in Batangafo after being released as child soldiers in 2015 Picture: UNICEF/Le Du

“They might not have the academic background or the training but it shows great resilience from these people and communities to make sure children aren’t missing out on school.”

Teachers are being trained to provide psychosocial support, as many children suffer from post-conflict trauma, UNICEF said.

Some children were shy and refused to talk, while others were aggressive and often drew weapons, teachers told the UN.

Mr Fall hopes that schools will continue to reopen – around 40% were closed at the height of the conflict due to attacks, looting and armed occupation – to help protect children from violence, recruitment into armed groups, and sexual abuse.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change.

From A World at School…

The Central African Republic figures were released on the same day that a new fund for education in emergencies was announced. The Education Cannot Wait fund aims to help millions of children who are deprived of schooling because of emergency situations – including wars, natural disasters and health crises.

UNICEF announced yesterday the fund’s target is to raise almost $4 billion to reach 13.6 million children within five years and 75 million by 2030.

But pressure must be kept on world leaders now to back up the commitment with urgent action and money. 

You can help by signing the #SafeSchools petition, which will be delivered to leaders at the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. It demands that promises are turned into action to help the millions of children who are being robbed of a future.

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