Three Burundian schoolgirls who were arrested for doodling President's Nkurunziza's image in a textbook were expelled following their release from jail. The girls, all minors, were detained for six days last month at Ngozi Central Prison and charged with "insulting the head of state," President Pierre Nkurunziza, Human Rights Watch reported. Additionally, a boy, who was not charged with any offences but was arrested as part of the initial group of seven, and another girl, were also expelled, Human Rights Watch's Central Africa director Lewis Mudge told CNN.
These expulsions show that schools in Burundi are being politicised.
In a letter from the school obtained by CNN dated March 20, it was stated that the students violated school regulations by "falsifying their schoolbooks."
"As stipulated by the school regulations in Article 31 paragraph 28, these five students are permanently expelled from school," the letter read. The letter, signed by the school's director Isaie Nkinzingabo, also stated that the students will have to enrol at another school in the following academic year.
The arrest and detention of the children previously gained worldwide attention with hashtags such as #FreeOurGirls trending on Twitter. Nkurunzinza has been president of Burundi since 2005. He was controversially re-elected for a third term in 2015 and has had a coup attempted against him previously. In 2018, he announced that he would leave office once his term was over in 2020.
Schools have been an avenue for political protest, with schoolchildren being caught in the crossfire several times before. For example, in 2016, hundreds of children were expelled from several schools for scribbling on the President's face in their books. In that same year still, 8 secondary school students were arrested by the National Intelligence Service of Burundi for writing the phrases 'Get out' and 'No to third term' on a picture of the President in a textbook.
Header Image Credit: BBC