Education Under Attack 2022
Attacks on education and military use of schools increased by one-third in 2020 compared to 2019, and remained at the same rate in 2021. Meanwhile, the number of people harmed in attacks and military use declined by half in 2020, compared to 2019, then doubled in 2021, returning to near pre-pandemic rates. In some countries, during initial public-health lockdowns in early 2020, GCPEA noted a reduction in attacks on education followed by a spike in attacks on schools or school teachers and students when educational facilities reopened in late 2020 or early 2021. Armed forces and non-state armed groups also took advantage of vacant schools, using them for military purposes during the pandemic in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria, and Sudan, amongst others. One explanation for the decline in the number of people harmed in 2020 may be that fewer students or staff were present in schools or universities when attacks occurred. Alternatively, with students and teachers out of schools due to the pandemic, armed groups and armed forces opposed to education no longer needed to violently prevent their attendance. As students and educators resumed in-person learning in 2021, the number of people harmed was similar to in years prior to the pandemic.
In 2020 and 2021, the highest incidences of attacks on education schools were in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar, and Palestine. In each country, hundreds of school buildings were threated, bombed, burned, or looted, among other violent attacks. During the same period, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey had high reported numbers ofpeople harmed as a result of attacks on education. In Nigeria, high numbers of students, including girls, were abducted, while the other countries saw hundreds or thousands of educators or students arrested for protesting education policy.
Two situations are profiled for the first time in the 2022 report: the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan and an insurgency affecting the northern Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. In Azerbaijan, over 130 schools were reportedly damaged or destroyed by heavy fighting and military use in 2020. In Mozambique, over 110 classrooms were reportedly destroyed due to armed attack.
Attacks rose in Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, and Nigeria during this reporting period, compared to 2018-2019. In Myanmar, attacks on schools and military use skyrocketed after a military coup in February 2021. In Colombia, attacks on schools and educators appeared to worsen during the pandemic, as fighting between armed groups and government forces caused an increase in violence in 2020. Hostilities erupted in northern Ethiopia in late 2020, resulting in a significant uptick in attacks on education. In Nigeria and Burkina Faso, the number of students or educators abducted by armed groups increased.
In Ukraine, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, among other countries, attacks on education declined in 2020 and 2021, as compared to 2018 and 2019. These declines were related to conflict de-escalation.
Globally, incidents of military use of schools and universities more than doubled in 2020 and 2021, as compared to 2018 and 2019, rising to over 570 incidents. Driving this increase was a spike in the military use of education facilities in Myanmar, where nearly 40 percent of all such cases occurred in the last two years. GCPEA also observed increases in cases of military use in CAR, DRC, Ethiopia, and Iraq.
Girls and women were reportedly targeted because of their gender in attacks on education in at least 11 countries. In certain contexts, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, armed groups targeted female students and teachers or their education facilities in efforts to obstruct their access to education. In addition, armed forces, state security forces, and non-state armed groups perpetrated conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls at, or on the way to or from, schools or universities.
Explosive weapons were used in around one-fifth of all reported attacks on education during the reporting period. Such attacks were either targeted or collateral and involved air-launched or ground-launched explosives, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), landmines, and unexploded remnants of war. These attacks often caused damage or destruction to educational infrastructure and killed or injured hundreds of students and educators. In 2020 and 2021, these attacks were most frequently reported in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Palestine,Syria, and Yemen. For example, attacks on schools involving explosive weapons killed or injured at least 185 students and educators in Afghanistan, nearly all of them girls, in the first half of 2021 alone.
Between the publication of Education under Attack 2020 and February 2022, nine new countries endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, with a total of 113 countries now committing to protect education in situations of armed conflict. The United Nations (UN) observed the first and second International Day to Protect Education from Attack on September 9, 2020, and 2021. Global leaders, including the Secretary-General of the UN, highlighted the importance of the Declaration. The UN Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement on Attacks on Schools in September 2020 and a resolution on attacks on education in October 2021 with explicit mention of the Safe Schools Declaration.