Warring parties take over Mozambican schools


Mozambique military

from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
Mozambique Bureau
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – MOZAMBIQUE is experiencing an increase in the use of schools for military purposes.

The conflict, which is prevalent north of the country, is thus increasingly putting education at risk.

Non-state armed groups agitating for the establishment of an Islamic state in the region, and armies, are responsible for the occupation of schools.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has recorded at least 12 cases of schools being used for military purposes during 2022 and 2023. This is compared to none in the previous reporting period.

The military use of schools was primarily by the Mozambican armed forces, although in one case forces of the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) were responsible.

Zenaido Machado, Senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the military use of schools, such as for bases or to store ammunition, denied students access and put them at risk of attack.

GCPEA identified at least six incidents in which Mozambique’s schools were damaged or destroyed in armed violence.

In 2021, the United Nations reported that more than 220 schools in Mozambique had been attacked since 2017. That is the year the Islamist insurgency began.

Human Rights Watch’s findings include the abduction of women and girls and the use of boys as child soldiers. Government security forces have also been implicated in serious human rights abuses.

In 2015, Mozambique endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, a political agreement committing countries to prevent and respond to attacks on students, teachers, and schools.

Yet schools here remain unsafe.

Machado said all parties to the armed conflict in Mozambique should cease attacks on education and protect schools from military use, and the Mozambican authorities should lead by example.

“The military should refrain from deploying on school premises and ensure that schools are a place to learn and teach, not a military camp,” Machado said.

– CAJ News

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