Hundreds of schools shut in Burkina Faso over militant attacks

Over 300 schools were closed due to the conflict. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018

Hundreds of schools shut in Burkina Faso over militant attacks

OUAHIGOUYA, Burkina Faso: In Burkina Faso, a country struggling to contain militant violence, education is one of the victims of the insurgency, with hundreds of schools closed, teachers in hiding and pupils kept indoors over the fear of attacks.
In the conflict-ridden north, more than three years of assaults and threats by radical Islamists have led to the closure of more than 300 schools, according to estimates, with the east of the West African nation now also seeing school closures.
“They (the jihadists) are slowly killing education,” said Kassoum Ouedraogo, who used to teach in a primary school in the small town of Nenebouro, near the border with Mali.
One of his colleagues was murdered in 2016 and last year teachers felt the security threat was so dangerous that they shut the school.
Ouedraogo moved to the northern regional capital Ouahigouya where, he says, he “lives with fear in his stomach.”
“They do not want ‘French’ schools... they want schools in Arabic,” he said, describing how teachers have been threatened by Islamists angry about “Western-style” education.
“(I used to) stay with villagers so that they could not find me so easily,” Ouedraogo said, who considered the accommodation provided by the school unsafe.

Burkina Faso is part of the vast Sahel region, which has turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
Despite international efforts to create a transnational anti-militant military operation, named the G5 Sahel force, the situation is getting worse.
A recent report submitted to the UN Security Council warned that security had “deteriorated rapidly over the last six months” in the area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with attacks spreading to eastern Burkina Faso.
According to an official report in September, 229 people have been killed in Islamist attacks in Burkina Faso since 2015 — including three major assaults on the capital Ouagadougou.
Another teacher, who wished to remain anonymous, said militant attacks and destroyed his school.
“One day, armed men arrived in the village. Some students ran to warn me and we went into the bush to hide. The men shot at the doors of the school, then they burned everything inside,” the teacher told AFP, declining even to name the region of the attack.
In the eastern town of Matiakoali, a dozen schools were forced to close at the end of October due to threats of violence, teachers and local security forces said.
Militants had visited mosques in nearby villages and warned that the staff had to leave, a teacher said on condition of anonymity.
“The teachers from neighboring villages got together and we decided to leave,” he said, explaining that they moved to other cities for safety.


The growing boldness of militant fighters in the former French colony reflects the government’s apparent inability to protect its citizens across vast stretches of the country.
Teachers and unions warn that thousands of children face years without access to schools unless the government steps up the fight against the growing terror.
“The situation is worrying. More than a dozen secondary schools have closed... hundreds of primary schools. There are many places where there are no schools,” said Yssa Kintiga from F-Synter union.
“The state must give itself the means to ensure security so that all children have access to education,” Kintiga added.
In one of the world’s poorest countries that is proving hard to do.
France has a 4,500-member military mission in the Sahel and is backing Burkina Faso and other members of the G5 Sahel group to improve security but it has had funding issues.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Ouagadougou last month and announced a 30 million euro ($34 million) “Three Borders” aid package for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to help spur development.
The money is seen as essential for easing the conditions which have allowed the militant insurgencies to thrive.
But optimism is hard to find with a French diplomatic source warning of a “very long” anti-terrorist fight.
“People are no longer going to school, the administration has fled,” said Ly Boukary, teacher and member of NGO Balai Citoyen, but added that the situation could improve.


Thunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos

Updated 44 min 28 sec ago

Thunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos

  • Business leaders are likely to be concerned by the state of the global economy
  • The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent

DAVOS: Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg on Tuesday slammed the business elite for doing “basically nothing” on climate change, as the Davos forum braced for an address from US President Donald Trump hours before his impeachment trial begins.

The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alps resort got under way seeking to thrash out dangers to both the environment and economy from the heating of the planet.

Trump, who has repeatedly expressed skepticism about climate change, is set to give the first keynote address of Davos 2020, on the same day as his impeachment trial opens at the Senate in Washington.

Before his appearance, Thunberg underlined the message that has inspired millions around the world, saying “basically nothing has been done” to fight climate change.

“It will require much more than this. This is just the very beginning,” the 17-year-old said.

Speaking calmly and with a wry smile, Thunberg acknowledged that her campaign which began with school strikes had attracted huge attention without yet achieving concrete change.

“There is a difference between being heard to actually leading to something,” she said.

“I am not the person who should complain about not being heard,” she said to appreciative laughter.

“I am being heard all the time. But the science and the voice of the young people are not at the center of the conversation.”

While the WEF and individual business leaders have been detailing their own concerns about climate change, Greenpeace complained in a new report that some of the world’s biggest banks, insurers and pension funds have collectively invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal in 2016.

“Pretty much nothing has been done as global Co2 emissions have not been reduced. And that is of course what we are trying to achieve,” said Thunberg.

There are no expectations that Trump and Thunberg, who have exchanged barbs through Twitter, will actually meet, but the crowded venue and intense schedule mean a chance encounter cannot be ruled out.

When Trump and his entourage walked through UN headquarters last year at the annual General Assembly, a photo of the teenager staring in apparent fury at the president from the sidelines went viral.

Tweeting before arriving in Davos aboard his Marine One helicopter, Trump appeared in bullish mood, writing he would “bring Good Policy and additional Hundreds of Billions of Dollars back to the United States of America!”

Although Trump’s Republican party holds a majority in the Senate and is almost sure to acquit him on charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress, the impeachment adds volatility to an already tense 2020 presidential election.

Sustainability is the buzzword at the Davos forum, which began in 1971, with heel crampons handed out to participants to encourage them to walk on the icy streets rather than use cars, and the signage paint made out of seaweed.

Trump’s opposition to renewable energy, his withdrawal from the Paris accord negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama, and the free hand extended to the fossil fuel industry puts him at odds with this year’s thrust of the event.

“People are playing a lot more attention to” climate, Eurasia Group president Ian Bremner told AFP at Davos, adding there was “genuine action by some big players,” after investment titan BlackRock said it was partially divesting out of coal.

“But let’s be clear — a big part of this is because we failed for a very long time and governments continue to fail,” he added.

Business leaders are likely also to be concerned by the state of the global economy whose prospects, according to the International Monetary Fund, have improved but remain brittle.

The IMF cut its global growth estimate for 2020 to 3.3 percent, saying that a recent truce in the trade war between China and the US had brought some stability but that risks remained.

“We are already seeing some tentative signs of stabilization but we have not reached a turning point yet,” said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.

Activists meanwhile will be pressing for much more concrete action to fight inequality, after Oxfam issued a report outlining how the number of billionaires has doubled in the past decade and the world’s 22 richest men now have more wealth than all the women in Africa.