The education of around 750,000 children has been disrupted in two most conflict-affected provinces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
New figures released by UNICEF show that between January 2022 and March 2023, at least 2,100 schools in North Kivu and Ituri provinces have been forced to stop operating because of the deteriorating security situation.
Insecurity has been especially damaging for the nearly 240,000 recently displaced children living in the vast camps around Goma. Violence by armed groups has forced thousands of families from their homes in search of safety, preventing their children from attending school.
“School-aged children are paying an unacceptable price for the growing conflict and insecurity in eastern DRC,” said UNICEF Representative Grant Leaity. “Hundreds of thousands of children who should be safely learning in the classroom, have instead been displaced by violence and are living in desperate conditions, and in vast and overcrowded camps.”
The scale of the crisis means that the majority of children living in the displacement camps are not able to attend school at all, with only a minority of children able to access UNICEF-supported Child Friendly Spaces or Temporary Learning Centres.
There are few facilities for displaced children to sit their final exams in June and obtain formal qualifications.
The figures, collated by a UNICEF-led education coordination group comprised of national authorities, network of local and international NGOs in North Kivu and Ituri show that:
- 119 schools have been attacked, occupied or temporarily used by armed groups.
- Nearly 1,700 schools have been forced to close due to persistent insecurity (mostly because they are in areas controlled by armed groups.)
- Nearly 300 schools cannot operate because they are being used as shelter by people displaced by conflict.
- Separate UN figures published earlier this year show that conflict in the east of the DRC has displaced more than 5.3 million people, with more than 800,000 people forced to flee their homes in North Kivu alone since the start of the M23 crisis in March 2022.
UNICEF is supporting the construction of Temporary Learning Spaces and providing school materials to students, in addition to training teachers on relevant topics including child psychosocial support.
In March 2023, UNICEF also supplied educational and recreational supplies to more than 10,320 displaced and host community pupils in the Ituri provincial capital Bunia, following on from an earlier distribution of chairs and tables for teachers.
UNICEF is committed to maintaining an up-to-date overview of school closures and attacks against schools in eastern DRC to gain a clear picture of the number of children deprived of education.