On the occasion of International Teachers’ Day, we would like to highlight the daily lives of teachers working in sometimes dangerous conditions, as is currently the case in the Sahel. Despite the risks, they remain dedicated and loyal to their commitment to education.
The 2021-2022 school year begins against a backdrop of a security and health crisis in Mali, West Africa. On the eve of the students’ return to class, Daouda Doumbia, director of the Mopti Teaching Academy – where Aide et Action is implementing two projects – testifies to the current context:
“The security crisis has affected all development sectors in the Mopti region, including education. The right to education is today threatened in the regions of central Mali where the Mopti region has become the epicentre of the security crisis with the closure of hundreds of schools and other learning centres causing teachers to move with the populations of the affected areas to relatively secure localities.”
In the region of Mopti, since 2015, the education system remains severely affected due to insecurity and inter-community conflicts. As of July 31, 2021, the Teaching Academy had registered 263 non-functional schools disrupting the education and lives of 17,449 children (8,733 boys and 8,716 girls) and 437 teachers.
Teachers, targets of terrorism
Over the past three years, several teachers have been kidnapped by armed groups in the towns of Ténenkou, Djenné and Korientzé. Even today, four serving teachers are still held captive by armed groups hostile to the school. Worse, closing schools is not always enough to protect communities; school infrastructure has also been destroyed and school furniture and teaching materials have been set alight in certain localities.
In this extremely tense context, working as a teacher in the Sahel region is sometimes an act of bravery. In Niger and Burkina Faso, the situation is also deteriorating over time since, in the latter country, 10% of schools are currently closed for security reasons.
“A threat at the door of our school”
Assibidi Lankoande, director of a public primary school from Dassari fears that his school’s geographical location is a cause for concern. “I approach this new school year with a lot of fear because my school is located 35 km from Manni and 5 km from Mopienga where the terrorists set fire to the local school which poses a threat to the door of our school,” he explains. “We need security measures to allow us to work peacefully. If nothing is done, our 180 students are at risk.”
Assibidi hopes that the authorities will secure the area so that classes can resume. Last year, the school, under the threat of terrorists, was closed before the end of the school year. In response, Aide et Action alongside the school’s other partners, moved students in examination classes to Manni, the chief- place of the municipality, to prepare for the end-of-year exams. “We had a 100% success rate for the Primary Studies Certificate (CEP)”, says Assibidi, applauding the partners for the patience and flexibility to accommodate the needs and risks of his students.
While teachers still too often remain alone and unprotected in the face of a threat to their jobs and even lives, urgent and essential measures and resources are needed to support them in their mission to deliver inclusive and quality education. More than ever, in such crises, the educational, as well as the social role of the teacher, deserves to be recognised and prioritised.