More than 230 high school students were suspended in the eastern Burundi town of Gisuru on Monday for scribbling on the photo of President Pierre Nkurunziza in their textbooks, administrative sources said on Tuesday.
This follows the suspension of 300 students in another school in Ruziba, in the outskirts of Bujumbura early June and then the arrest and detention of 11 students from another school in Muramvya in central Burundi for the same offence.
“We decided to suspend some 230 students from four classes of 8th and 9th grades (between 14 and 17 years) of the Gihinga communal high school on Monday, because they refused to expose those who damaged the photo of His Excellency the President of the Republic,” Aloys Ngenzirabona, administrator of the Gisuru district, told AFP.
According to him, the management has spent over a week looking for the students responsible for the scribbles but were not successful.
“We gave them a paper to write the names of those responsible, but they returned blank sheets,” he said.
“The officials decided to suspend the students until they decide to expose those responsible for this despicable act,” he added.
This school is the third in the country with such cases and students punished for it. But a source from the Ministry of Education told AFP that a dozen other schools have been implicated, especially in Bujumbura.
On June 3, hundreds of students demonstrated against the arrest and detention of the 11 students arrested in Muramvya for the same offence. Police reportedly fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators which injured three people.
Burundi police shoot at students protesting against colleagues' arrest https://t.co/hMjPqwVGlg— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) June 3, 2016
Since then, six minors among the 11 received bail, but the other five who are considered matured are in custody awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, the 300 high school students in Ruziba who were also suspended earlier have resumed classes while police investigation continues.
In some of the books, the eyes of the president had holes in them while in others, the picture had doodles and derogatory inscriptions drawn on them.
Insulting the head of state is punishable by five to 10 years in prison, according to the Burundian penal code.