Five schoolchildren who were charged for allegedly defacing a photo of President Pierre Nkurunziza have been expelled from school, according to Human Rights Watch.
HRW cites a letter dated March 20 from the director of Akamuri School in which the students are accused of violating school regulations by falsifying their schoolbooks.
HRW’s Central Africa director Lewis Mudge criticised the move noting that it denied the children one of their fundamental rights.
“All children have a right to go to school, to have equal access to education at all levels and to be guaranteed quality education,” Mudge said on the HRW’s website.
Mudge says the decision by the school has seriously affected the children and their parents, who have expressed concern about their future.
The HRW further accuses some school officials of becoming accomplices in a state crackdown on dissenting voices in the country.
The five children were among seven arrested in March in Kirundo province, about 200 kilometres northeast of Bujumbura, for allegedly insulting the president. They were accused of scribbling on his image in their textbooks.
An online campaign under the hash tag #FreeOurGirls began to pressure the authorities in Burundi to release the children.
Users posted pictures of the president defaced in various ways using clown wigs, twirly moustaches, pointy ears and bloody fangs.
The children were given provisional release but the country’s minister of justice said future cases would result in prosecutions.
Schoolchildren in Burundi have been on the receiving end of the law in recent years for such offences.