Protecting Education from Attack
Schools and universities should be safe havens where students and educators can work toward a better future. Instead, in countries affected by armed conflict, insecurity, and weak systems of human rights protections or political pluralism, education is often targeted for attack. Types of attacks include killing, disappearance, abduction, imprisonment, torture, and maiming of students and educational personnel, as well as bombing, and burning of educational buildings and destruction of educational materials. Attacks also include sexual violence at, or on the way to, school or university and recruitment by parties to the conflict at school and on the way to school. In addition, schools and universities have been used for military purposes, such as bases and barracks, weapons stores, and detention centers, by state armed forces and armed non-state groups. Attacks on education occur at all levels of the education system, from pre-school to higher education.
Attacks on education violate the right to education and other internationally protected human rights applicable at all times, and can constitute war crimes. Military use of an educational institution can convert it from a civilian object to a military object under international law and can place the school at risk of attack by opposing forces.
Attacks on students, educators, and education institutions can have devastating impacts on access to education and education systems and on a society’s overall development in the long-term. Existing information suggests that attacks on education disproportionately affect girls and women. The impact of military use of schools and universities can also be severely damaging, as these institutions may be taken over completely by armed parties and closed for education, or students may be forced to share their schools with armed soldiers. Military use of schools and universities also increase the likelihood of other forms of attacks on education, including attacks on the educational institution by opposing forces, child recruitment, or sexual violence.
The safety of all schools should be a priority to ensure the continuation of education in emergencies.
- Attacks on education are widespread and affect everyone - between 2013-2017, in at least 70 countries, students of all ages, teachers, academics, members of teachers unions, and education institutions were the target of thousands of intentional attacks for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, or religious reasons.
- The vast majority of attacks involved either the bombing, shelling, or burning of schools or universities, and/or the killing, injury, kidnapping, abduction, or arbitrary arrest of students, teachers, and academics.
- From 2014-2018, more than 14,000 attacks on education were reported in 34 countries, where there was a systematic pattern of attacks on education by state security forces and non-state armed groups.
- In at least 30 countries in the past five years, educational institutions were used for military purposes: this is the majority of countries in which there were conflicts during this time period.
- Young women are nearly 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict.
- Governments should investigate, prosecute, and punish individuals responsible for ordering, bearing command responsibility for, or taking part in, the range of violations of international law that constitute attacks on education.
- All parties should refrain from using schools and universities for military purposes.
This collection was developed with the support of Amy Kapit, Research Director at Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.