Three schoolgirls who were detained in Burundi for doodling on a picture of the President have been expelled from school following their release from jail, Human Rights Watch said in a CNN report.
The girls, who are all minors, were detained for six days last month at Ngozi Central Prison and charged with “insulting the head of state,” President Pierre Nkurunziza, according to the rights agency.
As reported by The Sauce, their detention sparked worldwide anger with many taking to social media to post defaced pictures of Nkurunziza with the hashtag #FreeOurGirls.
A boy, who was not charged with any offenses but was arrested as part of the initial group of seven, and another girl were also expelled, HRW’s Central Africa Director Lewis Mudge told CNN. “It’s good news they were released, but the charges still haven’t been dropped, and they have now been expelled from school,” Mudge said. “This is affecting their right to an education, he added.”
CNN, however, saw a letter dated March 20th, 2019 from the school which 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, signed by the school’s director Isaie Nkinzingabo, also stated that the students will have to enroll at another school in the following academic year.
Previously, schoolchildren in Burundi were jailed and expelled for similar offenses. In 2016, agents of the National Intelligence Service of Burundi arrested eight secondary school students for allegedly insulting Nkurunziza by writing phrases like “Get out” or “No to the 3rd term” on a picture of the President in a textbook, according to Human Rights Watch.
The same year, hundreds of children were expelled from several schools for scribbling on the President’s face in their books.
President Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, was re-elected to a third term in 2015 despite massive protests and concerns over the legality of running beyond his second term.