Children in Burkina Faso Risking “forced recruitment by jihadists”: Missionary Cleric

A missionary Priest ministering in Burkina Faso has expressed his concerns about the multiple cases of insecurity in the landlocked West African nation and cautioned about the danger of children who have not been attending school for over a year being targeted for recruitment by jihadists operating mainly in the east and north of the country.

In a report shared with Agenzia Fides, Fr. Marco Prada, a member of the Society of African Missions (SMA), says that children are exposed to greater dangers considering that the education system in the north of Burkina Faso has “completely fallen apart for more than a year.”

“These children will not be deprived of education only; they risk above all becoming the target of forced recruitment by jihadists, and being employed as child soldiers, as already happens with these extremely violent groups,” Fr. Marco says in the Wednesday, July 15 report.

He adds, “In the regions of Burkina Faso on the border with Mali and Niger there is no more school; several school buildings have been set on fire, and many teachers murdered. The devastation is the work of terrorist groups that rage in the area."

Multiple insurgent attacks targeting teachers and students in the country since 2017 have had a devastating impact on children's access to education, with 350,000 children deprived of formal education, a recent report by Human Rights Watch indicates.


In 2015, Burkina Faso, a country of 19.75 million people joined the list of Sahel countries under attack from armed militant groups domiciled in Mali but also operating from other countries.

Since then, three major Islamist militant groups namely, Ansarul Islam, the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM), and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) have camped in the northern and eastern part of the country from where they launch attacks.

In the wake of their wrath, GSIM militants known to operate in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger executed the January 2016 siege at a luxury hotel in the country’s capital Ouagadougou, killing at least 28 people, as well as the March 2018 twin attacks on the French embassy and army headquarters.

The jihadists have also targeted Christians. Last December, they mounted an assault on a Protestant church killing 14 worshippers, among them children and injuring others.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International estimates a death toll of at least 60 Christians in the country in 2019 alone.

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In his recent visit to some of the more than half a million displaced Burkinabe people, UNHCR Chief Filippo Grandi said, “They have fled the most horrifying violence I’ve heard of… I’m shocked by the violence and also shocked by the extent of their humanitarian needs.”

Amid the crisis, Fr. Marco says SMA members “are committed to trying to guarantee the right to education for children.”

“The most useful tool to combat jihadist formations, is education, given that the values transmitted in teaching are based on respect for human rights and on building social and inter-religious coexistence,” he adds.