Mali conflict robs displaced children of school

Not a single school in Segou admitted displaced children. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 October 2019

Mali conflict robs displaced children of school

  • Militant groups are closing schools down in Mali
  • Recently they attacked two military camps and killed 38 soldiers

SEGOU, Mali: In a better world, nine-year-old Oumou Tomboura would have already had several years of schooling behind her and be able to write, read and count.
But in Mali, education is another casualty of conflict.
When the new academic year began last week, Oumou sat not on a classroom bench but on a mat outdoors in the southern-central town of Segou, chopping onions and tomatoes for the next meal.
Her family is among tens of thousands to have fled militant groups working their way southwards from the desert north to central Mali in a seven-year-old insurgency, battling the army and its allies.
Six months ago, Oumou’s mother, Fatouma Dja, 29, left the dangerous village of Mamba, finding refuge for her three children 200 kilometers away.
“Of course I would like her to go to school, but it isn’t possible,” Dja said.
“When Oumou was old enough to go to school in Mamba, jihadists came and threatened the teachers and the school was closed. So she never went,” Dja said wearily, bearing her youngest child on her back.
Renowned for venerable centers of learning and trade down the centuries such as Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara and for a remarkable musical heritage, Mali is badly battered by the revolt.
A fresh blow came this week with the deadliest militant raids of the insurgency on two military camps in central Mali, where 38 soldiers were declared killed and dozens missing.
In Segou, not a single school admitted displaced children alongside the town pupils on Tuesday, when classes resumed.
The situation in Segou is overwhelming — more than 20,000 people have taken refuge there, and Mali is a desperately poor nation.
But Abdoulaye Diallo, a member of Segou’s Educational Action Committee, which oversees primary schooling in the town, said displaced families should not despair.
“The displaced should come and register with us, so we can point them to a school that will take them,” he said.
Dja said she was not informed of this.
In any case, she was busy doing her sums, totting up the cost of new clothes, shoes and school supplies. “It will cost 50,000 CFA francs ($83) and I don’t have that,” she said, lowering her eyes.
The new school year will be just as hard for those who stayed behind.
One school in three has shut down in the Mopti region, which is most affected by raids from militants loyal to ethnic Fulani — or Peul — preacher Amadou Koufa. The raids prompt retaliatory violence by self-proclaimed community defense militias.
Across Mali, 920 schools are listed as closed, more than two-thirds of them in the three central regions — Mopti, Segou and Koulikoro.
At the local education authority in Segou, regional director Itous Ag Ahmed Iknan, said he had just been informed of dramatic events in the village of Souba.
The previous week, eight militants had gone there, where they preached for 50 minutes.
“In their preaching, they insisted that schools be closed,” he said.
“The army has to come back, so that the zone can be secured, otherwise the schools will not re-open.”
French military intervention in 2013 drove militants forces out of key northern towns including Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, and Paris today lends military support to the Malian army and regional troops of the G5 Sahel force set up to counter insurgents.
Militant forces have steadily moved into the center, usually adopting guerilla tactics. Violence by armed groups has also led to school closures in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, according to the UN.
The Bamako government and international organizations have responded with lessons by radio, a framework of psychiatric support to help children affected by trauma or post-traumatic stress, and ad-hoc learning centers in villages and camps.
For Modibo Galy, a Malian researcher at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, “in the eyes of the Amadou Koufa group, schools are the incarnation of Western culture, a symbol of the Westerners they are fighting.”
“Teachers are civil servants who sometimes come from outside the region,” Galy said. “They may become suspected of passing information to the army, of being spies.”
Under this intense pressure, teachers often quit, one by one, and the school’s lifeblood can drain away.


India begins examination of plane’s black box after deadly crash

Updated 09 August 2020

India begins examination of plane’s black box after deadly crash

  • Air India Express plane overshot runway of the Calicut International Airport in heavy rain
  • Company to pay compensation to the families of the deceased

NEW DELHI: Indian investigators on Sunday began examining the black box of a Boeing-737 that overshot a runway on its second attempt, killing 18 people in the country’s worst aviation accident in a decade.
The Air India Express plane, which was repatriating Indians stranded in Dubai due to the coronavirus pandemic, overshot the runway of the Calicut International Airport in heavy rain near the southern city of Kozhikode on Friday.
The aircraft fell into a valley and broke in half.
In an interview with Reuters partner ANI on Sunday, Anil Kumar, head of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, said the country would open the recovered transcripts to international investigators, as well as manufacturer Boeing.
“Only after conducting a thorough and unbiased probe, can we tell what exactly happened,” Kumar said.
The 2,700-meter runway at the airport is known as a “table-top,” an aviation term for runways with steep drops at one or both ends.
They leave little room for error should a pilot overshoot the runway, either through human error or mechanical failure.
Late on Saturday, Kumar told CNN-News18 in an interview that the pilot made an aborted landing attempt into a headwind and then made a second approach with a tail wind, landing 1,000 meters down the runway.
An air traffic control official familiar with the crash confirmed this version of events, adding it is unusual to attempt a landing at the airport with a tailwind, which is typically used for takeoffs.
“The length of the runway in Calicut is around 2,700 meters and the plane touched the ground after crossing 1,000 meters of the length, leaving less room to bring the aircraft to a halt,” the official, who declined to be named as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said.
“It was windy and rainy and the runway surface was wet. In such instances the weather is dynamic.”
“An aircraft typically lands and departs in a headwind as a tailwind increases the plane’s speed.”
A spokesman for Air India did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has already said it will pay compensation to the families of the deceased.