UNICEF says 70% of children in Central African Republic still not in school

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New York, US– A survey conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners says seven out of 10 primary school students in the Central African Republic (CAR) have not returned to school since the conflict started in December 2012.

PANA in New York, quoting a UNICEF statement on Saturday, reports that about 65 per cent of schools surveyed were looted, occupied or damaged by bullets or shells.

The agency disclosed that the survey was carried out recently in 11 of the country’s 17 prefectures.

UNICEF Representative in CAR, Souleymane Diabate, stated: “A school is meant to be a safe space for teaching and learning, but in some areas there is nothing left, and without teachers, desks, textbooks how can a child learn?”

Mr. Diabate noted that four out of five people said that fear of violence was the main reason students were reluctant to return to school. Almost half of the schools remain closed and students have lost an average of six months of schooling.

According to him both the access and quality of primary education in the Central African Republic have severely deteriorated since the beginning of the crisis.

“And if we do not act now, more children will lose the entire school year and are at risk of dropping out,” he added.

UNICEF called on the CAR authorities to take concrete measures to support the permanent and safe return of all teachers and students to school.

It said almost 25,000 children affected by conflict were now in “catch-up classes” to prepare for this year’s final exams, with an additional 40,000 children scheduled to re-start learning in the upcoming weeks.

The agency further noted that almost 20,000 students had received school supplies and schools had received furniture which had already helped to re-open schools, while it planned to support an additional 105,000 children to get back to their classrooms by the end of the year.

UNICEF’s 2013 emergency appeal of US$11.5 million, issued before the crisis, has since tripled to US$32 million.

The agency has only received one-third of the funding requested, and US$21 million is urgently needed to provide education and emergency assistance to conflict-affected children and women in CAR.

Plagued by decades of instability and fighting, the CAR witnessed a resumption of violence last December when the Seleka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks.

A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again attacked and seized the capital, Bangui, in March forcing President Francois Bozize to flee.

There is now a transitional government headed by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, entrusted with restoring law and order and paving the way for democratic elections.

But armed clashes in the north-east have increased since the beginning of August, and the country is facing a dire humanitarian situation that affects the entire population of some 4.6 million.

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