Yet another example has emerged over the weekend of the dangers children and teachers face working in conflict zones in different parts of the world.
89 young boys were abducted in Malakal, South Sudan, many from a school which was attacked while they were sitting their exams. The group singled out boys over the age of 12 and it is believed they have been taken to serve as child soldiers in the ongoing conflict in the country. Reports say that there at least 12,000 child soldiers in the country. According to Human Rights Watch Africa director, Daniel Bakele: ‘Despite renewed promises by both government and opposition forces that they will stop using child soldiers, both sides continue to recruit and use children in combat.’ Earlier this month, UNICEF oversaw the release of 300 child soldiers. According to a representative: ‘We are witnessing the negative consequences that being in an armed group has had on the boys; some are withdrawn while others exhibit violent and aggressive behavior.’
This latest outrage is depressingly similar to others we have reported on the website: the dangers faced by pupils and teachers in Northern Nigeria, hundreds of whom have been killed or abducted, the plight of teachers in Northern Kenya and of teachers and students in Pakistan after the dreadful school massacre in Peshawar. Every time something like this happens, there are calls from the ‘international community’ for something to be done. Well-meaning representatives of the great and the good start initiatives like the most recent one from the UK’s Gordon Brown – now the UN envoy for education. This so-called Safe Schools Initiative was launched at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Nigerian capital Abuja, a meeting of the world’s bankers, CEO’s and finance gurus which itself was ironically subject to unprecedented security measures, including the lock down of the capital. However it is precisely the system propagated by outfits like the WEF which create the conditions where these awful events happen, as poverty and inequality proliferate, some young or disenfranchised people become increasingly alienated, frustrated and angry and turn to violent ideologies like those of Boko Haram and Al Shabaab.
Meanwhile teachers, including those in South Sudan, are doing their best in increasingly difficult circumstances, often in appalling conditions and for little or no pay. It is to teachers, their students and communities, fighting together for free and equal public education and on broader issues of equality and social justice, that we must look to the kind of change which is necessary if schools are truly to become safe spaces in which to live and learn.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.