Almost 200 schools closed in DRC’s war-torn North Kivu so far this year

About 190 schools have been closed in the North Kivu province in war-torn DRC.  (Guerchom Ndebo/AFP)

About 190 schools have been closed in the North Kivu province in war-torn DRC. (Guerchom Ndebo/AFP)

  • About 190 schools in North Kivu closed this year, adding to the 540 closed last year.
  • Some schools turned into displacement camps; others were seized by armed groups; and some were directly attacked.
  • The DRC’s humanitarian response plan for this year is only about 14% funded.

In the first three months of this year, about 190 schools have been closed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu province. 

That is already at 35% of the 540 schools closed last year, according to Save The Children.

“Among the affected schools are 24 that have been seized by armed groups, 10 that have been directly attacked, and 29 that have been used as an emergency shelter for displaced families. 

“Additionally, over the past year, there have been at least two reported cases of teachers being kidnapped, along with two incidents involving the abduction of students either at school or on their way to class,” Save The Children said in a statement.

The organisation said schools in areas such as Ituri and South Kivu have been affected by the conflict spilling into neighbouring provinces.

The school closures resulted in about 270 000 children being removed from the schooling environment. A large number of them were forced into becoming child soldiers and are victims of sexual violence.

Attacks on schools create lasting emotional and psychological scars on children and might impair their development, Save the Children said.

“A single attack cannot only cause devastating injuries to children, physically and emotionally, but also deprive hundreds of students of the chance to receive a good-quality education. Sometimes, a community’s only place of learning is destroyed,” said Save the Children director in the DRC, Greg Ramm.

He added:

All children in North Kivu have had their learning interrupted by the latest wave of violence, even if they have not been displaced. And, even if schools eventually reopen, the children will struggle because of the extremely crowded learning environments, given the scale of the displacement.

The latest wave of violence comes after a traumatic year of increased conflict in North Kivu in 2023, when intense fighting in the country’s east uprooted more than one million people, notably at least 500 000 children.

Around 250 000 individuals, including around 130 000 children, have been forced to escape their homes in North Kivu since February 2024 alone, with more than 2.6 million people, or roughly 30% of the region’s population, displaced since 2022.

Disaster unfolding before our very eyes

United Nations Special Representative Bintou Keita told the Security Council that the security situation had worsened since the December 2023 elections.

She said more than seven million people had been displaced in the country, primarily as a result of armed group activities by the M23 and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the eastern provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri. 

READ | UN troops wounded as fighting flares in DRC

Gender-based violence has been on the increase, she said.

“Cases of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation have also reached new records. In January 2024 alone, 10 400 cases of gender-based violence were reported across the country, a much higher increase than in previous years,” she added.

Keita encouraged the global community to address the humanitarian crisis. 

But she pointed out that the DRC’s $2.6 billion humanitarian response plan for this year was only about 14% funded. 

 The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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