Study by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack: School Under Attack 2022, a 265-page report released today shows the last two years have resulted in the injury or death of over 9,000 students and academics due to attacks on educational institutions during armed conflict (GCPEA). Attacks on schools, students and teachers as well as military use increased significantly in 2020 and 2021, with more than 5,000 incidents in those two years.

Education Under Attack 2022 studies found that attacks on schools and military use of schools grew by one-third from 2019 to 2020 and persisted in 2021 despite the fact that schools and colleges around the world were shut for significant periods of time during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to the GCPEA, attacks are on the rise in Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Mozambique, as well as debuting in Mozambique and Azerbaijan. Since the 24th of February, 2022, a thousand schools and universities in Ukraine have suffered damage, according to the Ministry of Education and Science and civil society organizations.

As GCPEA’s executive director Diya Nijhowne stated: “Education should not be attacked or exploited for military aims by governments or armed organizations.” 

“It is the responsibility of government authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible for assaults. After the Covid-19 attacks, they must engage the greatest number of students affected by attacks as possible in “return to school” activities, enhancing alternative educational initiatives started during the pandemic if necessary.”

Conflicts between states and non-state armed organizations often result in the devastation or bombing of educational institutions as well as the killings, injury or abduction of schoolchildren and faculty members as well as the arbitrarily arresting and recruiting of these individuals. There are long-term social and economic consequences for schools that are damaged or occupied.

Many students and professors were killed or injured by explosive weapons, which were employed in one-fifth of all attacks on schools and universities. Hundreds of schools and colleges were destroyed. At least 185 Afghan students and teachers were killed or injured by bombings in the first half of 2021, the majority of whom were female. Around a quarter of the city’s educational institutions were destroyed during the escalation of hostilities in Gaza in May 2021.

It’s not unusual for the GCPEA to claim that more than two-thirds of all reports of attacks on education and military usage are focused on schools. There were around 400 threats or actual attacks on schools in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, and Palestine in 2020 and 2021.

There will be more military and non-state armed groups spending time at schools and universities in 2020 and 2021 than there were in the preceding two. This trend was sparked by an increase in schools being utilized as barracks, prison cells, or military activities. The majority of these occurrences occurred after the February 2021 military coup, when there were almost 200 similar ones in Myanmar.

Many students and teachers were also targeted in these attacks. Women and girls make up at least a third of the victims of Nigeria’s kidnappings, woundings, and deaths, according to reports. Since December 2020, there has been an upsurge in the number of these attacks, many of which have been carried out by armed organizations that have not been identified. SIn Burkina Faso, Palestine, Cameroon, Colombia, and Somalia, students and teachers were threatened, kidnapped, maimed, or killed.

Recruiting for armed groups and militaries has occasionally taken place in schools. More than a half-dozen countries’ armed forces have been accused of sexually abusing minors in schools and colleges in the previous two years.

More than 320 incidents involving colleges, students, and employees have been reported in the past two years. Approximately one-fourth of the incidents were attacks on university buildings, while the vast majority involved attacks on university students and staff. A total of 1,450 people were arrested, accused, or convicted in connection with the attack, including more than 550 university students and employees.

The Covid-19 outbreak had no effect on attacks on education. A number of offenses increased in prevalence in 2020 and 2021. Armed forces and non-state armed organizations have used empty schools to achieve military objectives in a variety of locales, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, and Syria. Authorities employed disproportionate force, including water cannons and tear gas, in reaction to student and instructor protests over regulations governing the closure or reopening of schools and universities during the pandemic. When lockdown restrictions were relaxed, some schools that had been harmed in other countries, such as Colombia and Palestine, reopened with damaged infrastructure.

This declaration was drafted to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, in which 114 countries agreed to safeguard education in times of conflict. Education will be protected through concrete steps agreed upon by signatories, such as implementing the Guidelines for Safeguarding Schools and Colleges from Army Use During Aggressive War. Since the Declaration was made available for signature in 2015, governments and their partners have made significant progress in legislation and practice to protect education. In the research, more than a third of the countries polled haven’t signed on to the agreement.

“The Safe Schools Declaration, now in its sixth year, is an essential instrument as attacks on schools and universities, their students, and instructors persist,” Nijhowne noted. “All governments should recognize and implement the Declaration in order to save lives and protect the right to education for all, even those in the most dreadful combat conditions.”

Observations by the Editors:

The Education Under Attack series’ latest installment, Education Under Attack VI, was just released. It analyses global patterns and profiles attacks on schools and universities in 28 countries.

All UN agencies and non-governmental groups working on education in emergencies, security, or higher education are members of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA).

This project was made possible by a generous donation from Education Above All Foundation, the Education Cannot Wait Foundation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an anonymous donor

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