More than 9,000 students, teachers, and academics were harmed, injured, or killed in attacks on educational institutions during the last two years, according to a report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA).
The report stated that more than 5,000 separate attacks on education facilities, students, and educators, or incidents of military use, took place in 2020 and 2021, a significant increase over the previous two years, said the report Education under Attack 2022.
The report said that the number of attacks on education and military use of schools increased from 2019 to 2020 by one-third. This continued at this heightened rate in 2021, even as schools and universities around the world closed for prolonged periods during the Covid-19 pandemic. The GCPEA also found attacks on the rise in Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, and Nigeria, and emergent in others such as Mozambique and Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, GCPEA executive director Diya Nijhowne said it is crucial for governments and armed groups to end attacks on education, and stop using schools and universities for military purposes.” “Governments should investigate attacks and prosecute those responsible for abuses. In post-Covid-19 ‘back to school’ campaigns, they need to fully integrate students affected by attacks, expanding alternative education programs developed during the pandemic as necessary,” the official said.
MODE OF ATTACK
The attacks involved armed forces and non-state armed groups bombing and burning schools and universities, and killing, injuring, raping, abducting, arbitrarily arresting, and recruiting students and educators at or near educational institutions, during armed conflict. In addition to the deaths and injuries caused by these attacks, destroyed and occupied schools upend learning, sometimes permanently, and have long-term social and economic consequences. Explosive weapons, which were involved in one-fifth of all reported attacks on education, had particularly devastating effects, killing or injuring countless students and educators and damaging hundreds of schools and universities. In Afghanistan, attacks on schools involving explosive weapons killed or injured at least 185 students and educators, nearly all of them girls, in the first half of 2021 alone. In Palestine, air-launched and ground-launched strikes damaged a quarter of Gaza’s schools during an escalation of hostilities in May 2021.
Attacks on schools made up nearly two-thirds of all reports of attacks on education and military use collected by GCPEA, a similar proportion to the previous two years. In 2020 and 2021, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Palestine were the countries most affected by attacks on schools, with each experiencing over 400 threatened or actual attacks.
USE OF SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES
The use of schools and universities by armed forces and non-state armed groups more than doubled in 2020 and 2021. Myanmar had more than 200 such cases, mostly after the February 2021 military coup. Targeted attacks on students and educators were also widespread. In Nigeria, over 1,000 students or educators were reportedly abducted, murdered, or killed, at least one-third of them women and girls. The rate of these attacks, many by unidentified armed groups, escalated from December 2020. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Palestine, Somalia, and Colombia also had high numbers of students and educators threatened, abducted, injured, or killed.
Armed groups or armed forces also targeted schools to recruit children. In the past two years, state armed forces or armed groups reportedly recruited students from schools in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Yemen, while armed forces, security forces, or armed groups were reportedly responsible for sexual violence in, or on the way to or from, schools and universities in at least seven countries Universities, and their students and staff, also came under fire over the past two years, with over 320 reported incidents. Most of these attacks targeted university students and personnel, while a quarter of incidents targeted university facilities. Over 550 university students or personnel were injured, abducted, or killed and another 1,450 were detained, arrested, or convicted.
The Covid.19 pandemic did not slow attacks on education. In fact, some violations became more prominent in 2020 and 2021. Armed forces and non-state armed groups took advantage of vacant schools to use them for military purposes, including in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, and Syria. Elsewhere, the police responded with excessive force to students’ and educators’ protests over policies related to the closure or reopening of schools and universities during the pandemic, including using water cannons and teargas. In other countries, such as Colombia and Palestine, alter lockdown measures were lifted, schools that had sustained damage during attacks experienced delayed reopening, or reopened with damaged facilities.
- 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.
- 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 threatened, bombed, burned, or looted among other violent attacks.
- During the same period, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey had high reported numbers of people 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.
- 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
- Explosive weapons were used in around one-fifth of all reported attacks on education during the reporting period.