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Schools Become Crime Scenes for Groups Angry with Government

Africa features prominently in a 2020 report published by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. It lists Sudan, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo as “very heavily affected” countries. Another region of high concern is the Central Sahel, which includes Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. A Human Rights Watch news report published in early September claims that attacks on education in this region have been surging. Between 2014 and 2019, the Central Sahel experienced a significant increase in “security incidents”. These include battles, explosions or remote violence and violence against civilians. One feature of this violence is how perpetrators have targeted school infrastructure, staff and students. Violence caused a six-fold increase in school closures across the Central Sahel between early 2017 and end 2019. Prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, and in 2020 alone, 4,000 schools in the Central Sahel closed because of insecurity, affecting 650,000 students. A key feature of the attack on education is the way children are made victims of killing, sexual violence, maiming and abduction, and are recruited and used by armed groups. Attacks on schools and children evoke a strong emotional response, which is a definitive goal of terrorist groups. This was evident following the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. It also helps explain the impetus behind the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack and the recently held High-Level Humanitarian Event on the Central Sahel. Another reason for targeting schools is the intensive media coverage that follows. Media coverage provides terrorist groups with a platform.