Article written

  • on 30.10.2015
  • at 12:24 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Opinion: When Schools Become Barracks, Children Suffer 0

Surprise turned to confusion, then to horror, when the children at Kiata primary school realized that the soldiers they had spotted at the bottom of the hill were heading for their school and its occupants.

As the soldiers reached the hilltop school in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, students scattered in all directions, scared of the armed men and what they might do.

Those who failed to escape the courtyard before the soldiers entered were caught, beaten and forced to help as the armed men converted the school into their temporary base. The soldiers made the children fetch water, steal food from nearby farms and chop up their school desks for fire wood. When one of the captured boys refused to obey, a soldier sliced his arm with a knife. If the older girls resisted the soldiers’ advances the men would rip their clothes, one student told my colleague.

The capture of Kiata primary school in late 2012 features in a new report by Human Rights Watch, which documents the far-too-frequent misuse of schools by the Congolese army and various armed groups in areas of the country that are still affected by conflict. In fact, our investigation shows, the presence of armed men inside schools is a far-too-familiar sight for many children in Congo who are yearning to learn.

When fighters take over a school, they sometimes only make use of a few classrooms or the playground; at other times, however, they convert the entire school into a military base, barracks or training grounds. As the students held captive at Kiata school attested, troops occupying schools means students and teachers risk being unlawfully recruited into armed groups, forced to work without pay, beaten and sexually abused.

Continue reading on IPS News

by Bede Sheppard

Photo credits Lane Hartill / Human Rights Watch

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi