Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have attacked a school to recruit child soldiers, Save the Children said today.
The children’s charity says the two recent attacks are part of an explosion in child recruitment over the past few weeks.
One child was killed and 12 others escaped when an armed group attacked a secondary school in Shasha, five miles outside Sake, the charity says.
In another incident, seven children and three teachers were reportedly abducted near Masisi on October 10 after an armed group waited for them outside the school. They were held for two days before managing to escape.
Save the Children says recruitment of children has taken place in Singa in Rutshuru, and children in Masisi have been forced to carry weapons and ammunition. The charity is caring for several children who have escaped from armed groups.
A spokeswoman in Eastern Congo said: “There has been an explosion in the number of children being recruited since the latest violence began and the attacks on schoolchildren are a disturbing development.
“One child told me that they are scared to go back to school for fear of being attacked. For these children, getting an education is their only hope for the future. If they can’t go to school, they lose that hope.”
The conflict in DR Congo has a history of targeting children. Before the most recent upsurge in violence, Save the Children estimate that 3,000 children were being held by armed groups. That number is now expected to soar.
The charity says it has helped 2,200 children out of armed groups in the last year and reunited most of them with their families, but there are fears that many of these children are at risk of being re-recruited into the fighting.