Ethiopia closes schools to boost civil war effort

The fighting has destroyed many schools, the government says

Ethiopian authorities have closed all secondary schools so pupils can harvest crops for those on the frontline of the civil war, state-affiliated media says.

The closure will last for one week, according to the education minister.

More than 2 million pupils were already out of school due to the war which started in the northern region of Tigray last year, the government says.

As the fighting intensifies, government troops say they are taking towns from the Tigray rebels.

On Wednesday state forces announced they had recaptured the historic town of Lalibela, which contains churches that are Unesco world heritage sites.

In an interview with the BBC, an Ethiopian army commander said the country’s defence forces would not relent in their advances after recent gains.

“I cannot say we will pause once we reach Mekelle [Tigray’s capital] or other places, rather we will recapture areas at the hands of Woyane [the Tigray People’s Liberation Front]. We will follow and get rid of them,” Lt-Gen Bacha Debele said.

The war has caused a humanitarian crisis with more than 300 schools that teach grade one to 12 destroyed as of October, according to a statement on the Ministry of Education’s Facebook account.

The government will work to restore the destroyed schools, the statement continued.

The war intensified after Tigray fighters said they were advancing towards the capital Addis Ababa in November.

They also launched an offensive to reach the Djibouti border in the east – which is crucial for getting supplies to landlocked Ethiopia.

This led to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed saying he would join the war effort on the frontline, where he has since been pictured by state TV.

The TPLF has said it made a “strategic withdrawal” from some the areas which the army says it has recaptured.

You may also be interested in:

  • Africa Live: For more on this and stories around the continent

  • EXPLAINER: Why the Ethiopia conflict matters to the world

  • VOICES: Civilians hunt rebels in Ethiopia

  • PROFILE: The Nobel Peace Prize winner who went to war