Malian Children Out of School in Burkina Faso

02/06/2012 – According to one charity, Terre des Hommes, Malian refugee children in Burkina Faso could miss out on another year of school if action is not taken to expand access to education.

Ripped from their homes, forced to flee their communities, fighting for their survival—refugee children contend with more hardship on a daily basis than many of us will know in a lifetime.

Not only have Mali’s youngest citizens been displaced owing to violent conflict in their country; not only are they vulnerable to psychological trauma and the pain of losing or becoming separated from their parents; but now they are also missing out on education.

A new report by Reuters AlertNet states that 25,000 northern Malian children in Burkina Faso may drop out of school. The warning came from Switzerland-based charity, Terre des Hommes, yesterday.

The beginning of the New Year brought fighting between Mali’s government and Tuareg rebels in the north of the country. The crisis intensified with a coup coordinated by soldiers from the armed forces in March.

Armed factions in the north last week declared an independent state. Touareg rebels and Islamist group, Ansar Dine, formed an agreement to declare and Islamic state in parts of northern Mali, where both forces operate. But the deal has now been rejected by the Tuareg rebels, represented by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, who seek a secular state. Yet, media channels have reported that the two factions are in talks once again.

The United Nations' refugee agency has already increased its humanitarian appeal to help Mali’s refugees in the West African region to $153.7 million. In Burkina Faso alone, three million people are facing food insecurity.

Already, children have missed out on half the school year. Most parents cannot afford to pay for school books and other fees associated with enrolling their children. Even wealthy children who have had the means to enrol in Burkina Faso's schools have had difficulties with the different curriculum.

It is estimated that 320,000 Malians have fled their homes to safer locations in Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania or Niger. Most of these refugees are women and children.

Without actions to increase access to education by the start of the next academic year (October), children could miss out on a second year, said Terre des Hommes’ in-country representative Thierry Agagliate.

However, the United Nations is working with the host country’s authorities to provide spaces for children in schools, create special schools for the refugees and utilize a Malian curriculum taught by teachers recruited from the refugee population. Unfortunately, this would cost $1.7 million that has yet to materialize.

On the whole, says the Right to Education Project, housed by ActionAid International and supported by others, “the majority of refugee children do not receive basic education. Some estimates put the number of refugee children receiving education at no more than 30 per cent.”