A World Bank sponsored programme in Ethiopia is forcing communities from their homes into new areas on the pretext of providing better infrastrucure including schools. The programme - called 'villagisation' - has seen people being forced from their homes, with people who dare to speak up against it being arrested and even killed by security forces. When the communities arrive at the new villages there is often no school and no infrastructure and they are too frightened to return to their homes.

According to a report from Human Rights Watch this scheme is happening in the Western region of Gambella:

The government initiative involves forcibly relocating some 1.5 million indigenous and other marginalized people in five regions of Ethiopia to new villages where the government claimed there would be improved access to basic services and infrastructure. Human Rights Watch investigations  . . . have found that consultation and compensation have been grossly inadequate, and relocation marred by intimidation and violence, with state security forces repeatedly threatening, assaulting, and arbitrarily arresting villagers who resist transfer. Dozens of farmers in Ethiopia’s Gambella region told Human Rights Watch they were moved from fertile areas where they survived on subsistence farming, to dry, arid areas and that the promised government services often did not exist. Human Rights Watch documented at least seven credible accounts of people dying as a result of the beatings inflicted by the military during relocations, and heard of many more deaths that could not be corroborate. One 20-year-old man who escaped to South Sudan told Human Rights Watch:

Soldiers came and asked me why I refused to be relocated.… They started beating me until my hands were broken.… I ran to tell [my father] what had happened, but the soldiers followed me. My father and I ran away.… I heard the sound of gunfire.

Forced to separate from his father, he kept running and hid from the soldiers in nearby bushes. When he returned the next day, he learned that his father had been killed.

World Bank support for this programme is part of its Promoting Basic Services scheme in Ethiopia project, which aims to expand "(i) . . . nationwide access to basic services such as education, health, water supply, sanitation, rural roads and agricultural extension services, and (ii) (improve) the quality of these services.” In so far as people moved willingly to the new villages, it was because they had been promised that their children would get an education. However according to the report, Waiting for Death: Displacement and 'Villagisation' in Ethiopia's Gambella Region: "Operational schools have been completely absent from the new villages" and the government's plans "did not even envision" them for most of the villages. One of the village residents says: "There is a psychological impact on children. No learning is happening. There was a school in the old village, here there is none. No one is going to school now, as they are afraid. Who will protect them going to the old village? Even the children themselves are refusing to go."

A teacher said: “All of them [the villagers] resisted. There were arguments, but were told to go so they did. They moved further away from the school and clinic. The decision has now been made to close the school because children don’t attend anymore because they are starving.” Pupils are also being forced to work, building the new villages in school time, and teachers are expected to make them do so.

There is a long history of repression of teaching unions and protest in Ethiopia and many examples of this can be read on this site. Leaders of the teachers' union were imprisoned for many years and the union shut down to be replaced by a government union.

Behind the villagisation scheme is the leasing of large tracts of fertile land to foreign agribusinesses - an area the size of the Netherlands has been leased out since the beginning of 2011. This is a typical but particularly egregious example of the way in which the right to education is used as a cover for the ammassing of profits by multi-national corporations - a cover which is provided by the World Bank.

I am grateful to the website Retarding Polyticks for drawing my attention to this story.