The closed schools are in six out of the thirteen regions in the country. At the end of the school year, especially last June, some 2 000 schools are closed affecting about 327 000 students, according to the Minister of National Education.
They came from localities affected by the attacks of armed men which have killed dozens of people. While some of the displaced have found refuge in host families, others temporarily occupy schools in the capital, such as Sawadogo Ousmane. He left Silgadji with his family to settle on the outskirts of Ouagadougou. “After three months of schooling, the schools were closed because of the attacks. Here, our children do not go to school. All we are looking for is to eat it, because we left, leaving everything in the village”.
And to continue: “In the beginning, the authorities came to give us food and ask us to be ready to go back to the Barsalgho and Foubé sites. These sites are close to our villages and we are not ready to go back. The authorities said that they will not be able to take care of us if we refuse to return there. (…) Some of our women miscarried on the road while we were fleeing the attacks. They are not ready to remain without husbands if we decide to go back to the Foubé and Barsalgo sites”.
Indeed, upon the arrival of displaced from Soum to Ouagadougou, a government team headed by the Minister of National Solidarity and Humanitarian Action, Laurence Ilboudo Marchal, went to meet them. But the displaced who do not intend to return to other sites, did not like the conditions imposed by the government. They believe that the sites are close to their villages where they witnessed killings in a church.
“We want to go as far as possible”
From Silgadji to Ouagadougou, you have to cross Kaya and several villages. Djibo is 50 km from Silgadji, Ouahigouya is closer than Ouagadougou but the displaced say “to go as far as possible. That’s why we rented two trucks for 400 000 CFA francs to get us there. Where we are housed [a private school, ed], it is not free. We pay between 5 000 and 10 000F per housing with our own pockets, but we have nothing left. Our animals remained there and people stole them. We do not work here in Ouaga and none of us will be able to farm to feed his family”.
On the ground, in Pazaani, a non-urban area of Ouagadougou, more than 400 people including 150 children are distributed in classrooms and other places. Initially, about 2 000 people left Arbinda, Kelbo and Silgadji distributed in two neighborhoods, one in District 9 and the other in Pazaani.
Among the children, Tapsoba Sahadata did not have the chance to take the exam for the first school diploma. “I am in the 5th grade but I could not do the exam because of the people of the bush (terrorists, ed). I had an 8 average in the first quarter and I want to continue”. Like her, more than 200 students from her village will not go to school for lack of money. Also, with the bloated number of students in public schools in the capital, it will be difficult to find places, say his parents.
Some measures are announced by the government for the reopening of schools in areas of insecurity but their application does not reassure, according to our interlocutors. In Soum, more than 200 schools closed, 20 000 children on the street, the Minister of National Education and Promotion of Languages announced, a few months ago. According to Stanislas Ouaro, by February 15, 1135 schools remained closed in Burkina affecting more than 154 223 students and 5 032 teachers. But this figure has almost doubled three months later.
In Djibo, we tried to approach the education authorities without success. Some fear for their safety, others for the sanctions of the hierarchy. “We want to answer but the situation is complicated. If you send us an authorization signed by the hierarchy we will be able to answer your questions. Otherwise I will not take any risk in these times”, says a school director. Same story with the provincial director of education, without the permission of the hierarchy, no answer. The Provincial Director of Social Action in one province was relieved of his duties after an interview about the situation of the displaced in his area.
What the authorities are planning
The schools are also guarded day and night by soldiers to ensure the safety of students who could not do the various exams for a special session in September. The city of Djibo, located 210km from the capital, is under curfew for several months after the attack of the gendarmerie brigade. Since 2017, no school within a radius of 2 kilometers works. After the first quarter of this year, even schools inside the city are closed. “The students do not study well. At the slightest sound, they panic and disperse. It’s psychosis!” says a teacher who wished to remain anonymous. “one can not work in these conditions,” he said indignantly.
The Burkinabe government plans to redeploy teachers to fill the gap in schools in the provinces. A measure that aims to relieve the number of teachers in the cities of Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso who are sometimes in excess.
To this end, the teachers’ union says it agrees with this measure, but asks the government to respect the memorandum of understanding, which provides for a class size of 50 pupils per class, because some classes have more than 100 students. Until then, redeployment is slow. A few weeks before the start of the school year, attacks on military positions killing dozens of people in Koutougou do not reassure the population for the reopening of schools in these areas.
In Burkina Faso, “nearly 289,000 displaced people live in host communities or displacement sites in the North-Central, East and Sahel regions. More and more displaced people are seeking refuge in urban centers,” according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).