(Nairobi) – Armed groups in the Central African Republic have occupied, looted, and damaged school buildings, preventing children from getting an education, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 39-page report, “No Class: When Armed Groups Use Schools in the Central African Republic,” documents how armed groups, and even soldiers from the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, have used school buildings as bases or barracks, or based their forces near school grounds. The government and the peacekeeping mission should increase protection for students and schools in areas of the country affected by armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said.
“Children have lost years of education in many parts of the Central African Republic because armed groups have failed to treat schools as places of learning and sanctuary for children,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “The government and the UN can do more to ensure that fighters stay away from classrooms, and that children can safely go to school.”
The report is released five days before the Second International Safe Schools Conference, hosted by the Argentine government in Buenos Aires. The conference will highlight the global problem of attacks on students, teachers, and schools, as well as the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political commitment endorsed by the Central African Republic and 59 other countries.
The Central African Republic signed the Safe Schools Declaration in June 2015, committing itself to protect schools from attack and military use. This important step spurred MINUSCA to begin clearing schools that were occupied by militias. The UN mission made progress in 2016, but was undermined when peacekeeping forces themselves used schools as bases and barracks.
“By endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, the government demonstrated the value it places on education for the development and stability of the country,” Mudge said. “Armed groups and UN peacekeepers should respect the declaration’s call to protect schools and help children get the education they want and deserve.”