“Their War Against Education” Armed Group Attacks on Teachers, Students, and Schools in Burkina Faso

Human Rights Watch
Attacks on Education

When armed men on motorcycles tore up to a school in Béléhédé village in Burkina Faso’s Sahel region in early 2018, panic ensued. “I was in class when the terrorists came. ... They fired a shot, and we all fled to save ourselves,” said Boureima S. (not his real name), a 14-year-old student at the time. “Afterwards, when we went back there, I saw they had burned the principal’s motorcycle... the [school’s] office... and the students’ notebooks.”

Boureima’s school closed following the attack in 2018 and never reopened. When Human Rights Watch spoke with him in February 2020, he had not yet stepped back inside a classroom. Like hundreds of thousands of students in Burkina Faso, Boureima’s education was cut short by the country’s steadily worsening armed conflict.

Since the first recorded attacks on Burkinabè schools in 2017, the number and severity of such attacks have surged. Armed Islamist groups allied with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State have burned, looted, and destroyed scores of schools. “It’s their war against education,” one teacher said.

The armed groups have also intimidated students, terrorized parents into keeping their children out of school, and killed, abducted, brutalized, or threatened scores of teachers. In many cases, the assailants committed the abuses directly in front of terrified students, leaving both teachers and children physically or mentally scarred.