On Wednesday, the United Nations revealed that over 10,000 children have been unable to resume school in Central African Republic (CAR) this academic year because of the prolonged civil war in the state which has seen armed groups turn schools into their bases.
According to the report, one-third of the schools in CAR have been destroyed by bullets, set on fire or occupied by militiamen. Despite the fact that children across the country resumed last week, some students in areas outside Bangui have been unable to return to school due to intense insecurity.
In this vein, the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA) ordered all armed groups to vacate schools they are occupying. It furthers threatened that it will adopt forceful means if necessary.
UNICEF noted that about 400 primary schools are shut down in CAR while thousands of children are not in class. Donaig Le Du, UNICEF’s chief of communications in CAR stated the conflict should not prevent children from going to schools. She also said that schools are not part of the conflict, they have no political affiliation, and thus, they should be spared.
“Schools are not part of the conflict, they have no political affiliation. No child should be prevented from going to school by conflict,” she said.
Overview of the civil war in CAR
Seleka Muslim groups launched an offensive attack against the government in 2012. The seized the capital city of Bangui. In response to these acts, the anti-Balaka group who are dominantly Christians launched a military attack on the Seleka group in June 2013. This marked the beginning of the civil war in CAR. The Seleka militants also retaliated by killing non-Muslims population, especially the people of Gbaya ethnicity. In September 2013, anti-Balaka fighters step up its revenge against the Seleka Muslims, which led the displaced persons in Seleke controlled area of the North.
Since the outbreak of this war, about 3000 to 6000 people have been killed. A report by UN and relief organisations revealed that about 2.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 460,000 internally displaced and 452,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.
Human rights groups have reported that both armed groups have committed grave crimes against humanity. Their activities have heightened insecurity challenges in the state and consequently, hindering development. Non-combatants like women and children have been killed in the conflict. These casualties are enough to prosecute the two groups for committing war crimes.
At the peak of the war, the UN Security Council in April 2014, established peacekeeping forces called UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). The MINUSCA 12,000 peacekeepers, in conjunction with AU and French forces, have the mandate of protecting of citizens.
Basic child education should be taken seriously in CAR
Apparently, children are among the victims of the civil war in CAR. They have been denied their right to quality education as some of them could not attend schools. This negates the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) which is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” In this vein, children in CAR should not be denied their right to attain quality education due to conflict. All relevant UN agencies, ranging from UNICEF to UNESCO should help save the future of these children.