By Nelson Manneh
The Senegalese military raids that took place in Foni sometime in 2022 have drastically affected the enrolment of students for this new academic year 2023/2024.
Many parents have transferred their children to other schools within and outside Foni, Momodou Jallow, a teacher at Kapa Basic Cycle School, told Foroyaa.
Mr. Jallow made this statement when this reporter visited Kapa Basic Cycle School in Foni Kansala District on Thursday, 28fh September to see the preparedness of both parents and students for the new 2023/2024 academic year, which has commenced.
The unprecedented upsurge in the Casamance conflict started when four Senegalese soldiers were killed in an ambush back in February 2022 by the MFDC forces, with the abduction of seven others who were later released. Since then, the Senegalese military has taken stricter security measures in the southern Senegalese region, launching military raids on the MFDC combatants, which prompted Gambian border residents in Foni to vacate their homes, following the deaths of some people in Foni, which were all attributed to a Senegalese military drone that frequently patrols the borders of Casamance region in southern Senegal and the Foni Kansala District in the Gambia.
The situation forced residents to leave in fear of their lives and that of their loved ones, forcing many to abandon their homes and flee to safety.
Mr. Jallow, who has been posted to Kapa School for more than three years now, explained to this reporter that military activity at the border has persisted as they continue to see alleged Senegalese military drones patrol the border.
“Sometimes whilst we are within the School campus, we see the Senegalese military drone in the sky, and the situation is still threatening. We have missed hearing gunshots but we are still not comfortable with the movement of this drone,” he said.
According to Jallow, many parents have moved their children to other schools along the Trans-Gambia highway within Foni, reducing the number of students enrolled at his school. He said the number of new intakes in both the primary and upper basic cycle schools have seriously reduced. That during the peak of the conflict, many teachers left and at some point, the school was closed for quite a while.
“When this happened, we engaged the government and put some of our demands before them as teachers, because it was risky to be a teacher around this area. We told them to put all teachers on double shift and to increase our take home packages,” he said, adding that the government had agreed to their demands and gave them promises which were never fulfilled.
“Some teachers who are currently posted here have not yet reported. Some came but have returned with the promise of coming back, but we are yet to see them again. If the trend continues, Kapa School will be affected,” he said.
“I have transferred all my children to a school in Tallinding since last academic year. I have three children who were enrolled at Kapa Basic Cycle School but due to the conflict at the border, I decided to transfer all of them,” Kaddy Badjie, a mother of four told this reporter. Mrs Badjie said the break in learning during the conflict affected her children, which made her to move them.
“We have missed hearing gunshots but the military drones are still flying over our heads. This is not what we used to know in Foni,” she said.
Foroyaa will engage the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) to find out what their intervention will be, to mitigate the situation and ensure that teachers are safe to report and teach in their schools along the border in Foni.