(Kinshasa) – The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo should increase protection for students and schools in areas of the country affected by armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The government should endorse and carry out the international Safe Schools Declaration.
The 58-page report, “‘Our School Became the Battlefield’: Using Schools for Child Recruitment and Military Purposes in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,” documents how armed groups have attacked schools and recruited children at school or while on their way to school. Armed groups and the Congolese army have also taken over schools for military purposes. Many children and parents told Human Rights Watch that fear of being abducted or raped kept students from attending school.
“Children’s access to education is more often a fight than a right in many parts of Congo,” said Bede Sheppard, deputy children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “Keeping students safely in school should be at the heart of efforts to build durable peace in Congo.”
The report is based on interviews with more than 120 people, including students, teachers, and Education Ministry and United Nations officials based in North and South Kivu provinces, in eastern Congo, where there has been ongoing conflict.