Burundi school suspends hundreds of pupils for scribbling on president's face in textbooks

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza. (AFP)

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza. (AFP)

More Burundi schoolchildren have been sent home for deliberately scribbling on pictures of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

This week 234 pupils of the Gahinga High School in the commune of Gisuru in Ruyigi Province (eastern Burundi) were sent home because some of them were suspected of defacing pictures of the head of state in their textbooks.

Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA), the provincial director of education, Guillaume Kwizera, said: “They refused to denounce the authors of the crime. So, we decided to send them all home while investigations are launched. They will not be allowed to return to school until the investigations are over”.

Kwizera said pictures of Nkurunziza in 27 textbooks books had been scribbled over. This was an “irresponsible act,” said Kwizera, adding: “Those who did it have to be punished”.

Two weeks ago, 11 pupils of two secondary schools in the town of Muramvya province in the centre of Burundi were arrested and put in jail for the same offence. During the operation by police and intelligence agents, two persons were injured by police bullets.

The high court of Muramvya on Monday confirmed the detention of the five pupils aged 18 years or older. Last week it ordered the conditional release of the six minors.

A similar incident occurred a month ago in Ruziba zone, 32km south west of Bujumbura. More than 300 high school students were expelled, but were allowed to return seven days later.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) says it is deeply concerned about the arrests and expulsions from schools of children.

In a statement Unicef regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala said that all children in Burundi had the right to pursue their education and attend their upcoming exams in a neutral, safe and protective environment.

“Schools should be respected as zones of peace and safe havens for children,” said Gharagozloo-Pakkala.

She called on all parties to immediately ensure full respect of children’s right to education and their protection from violence.

New education system
The scribbling of the president’s pictures seems to be an expression of frustration by pupils against a new education system the government has just introduced.

The scribbling started about the time when the first contingent of pupils who had started with the new education system were at the end of the first cycle of basic secondary education (three years after primary school). At this stage, they have to do a test which determines whether they move forward to a second cycle.

Those who fail have to leave school to receive vocational training.

Some pupils told ANA they thought this was a bad system which was unfairly curtailing their academic education. They blame Nkurunziza as he introduced the new education system.



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