Bamako — The crisis in Mali has disrupted the education of some 700,000 Malian children, leaving 200,000 still with no access to school both in the North and South of the country, according to UNICEF and educational authorities in Mali.
Since January 2012, 115 schools in the North were closed, destroyed, looted and in places contaminated with unexploded ordnance. Many teachers have failed to return to the North and already overcrowded schools in the South cannot cope with the influx of displaced students from the North.
"In Mali, the armed conflict has affected the education of hundreds of thousands of children, violating their right to education," says Minister of Education Moussa Bocar Diarra. "To give new hope to those affected by the crisis, hundreds of schools need to be built or rehabilitated, and equipped with school canteens."
"Thousands of teachers will need to be trained. They are in need of materials and textbooks, including those relating to the culture of peace and tolerance. Strong national and international support will allow us to address these challenges" he added.
In the North, only one in three schools is functioning. In Kidal, all schools are closed while in Timbuktu 5 per cent have reopened. In Gao, only 28 per cent of teachers have resumed work.
"Being at school, I heard gunshots," said Amadou, a 12-year-old from Douentza in the Mopti region who was displaced to Sévaré, where he is now attending school.
"The head teacher told us to go home," he said. "Even being at home, I heard gunshots. For about two weeks, I did not go to school. I forgot a lot of things, because I was upset. The shots that I heard in Douentza caused me much fear. But now I've forgotten it all and I begin to live as before. "
Since December 2012, UNICEF has trained 1,190 Malian teachers to provide psychosocial support and mine risk education to children. More than 16,000 children affected by the conflict have received educational materials across the country.
"When a teacher is afraid to teach and when a student is afraid to go to school, the whole education is at risk," said Françoise Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Mali.
With the technical and financial support of UNICEF, education authorities and partners have agreed to accelerate the return of children to school, especially in the North. "We have to save the school year for our children, especially our girls," said the President of the Crisis Committee of Timbuktu.
All education partners in Mali launched a humanitarian funding appeal in November 2012 for US$18.8 million. To date no funds have been received.