Report Details Attacks on Education Worldwide
The number of violent attacks against schools and universities, their students and staff has increased worldwide in the past five years, according to a report issued today by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, a New York-based coalition of human-rights organizations.
The report focuses on 28 countries with the greatest number of recorded incidents from 2013 through 2017. Of these countries, seven were in the Arab region: Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Prolonged military conflict caused greater damage and loss of life to students, staff and institutions during the past five years than in the period covered by the coalition’s previous report, 2009 to 2013, said Amy Kapit, the coalition’s research director. She noted, however, that improved reporting may account for some of the increase.
The improved reporting of incidents, Kapit said, may be due in part to the Safe Schools Declaration, a commitment by governments to protect education during armed conflict, promoted by Norway and Argentina from 2015. Seventy-four countries have so far endorsed the agreement.
“That put the question of attacks on education on the global agenda,” Kapit said. “One of the principles of the Safe Schools Declaration is reporting and monitoring attacks on education. We are seeing global recognition of the problem, and with that comes increased reporting.”
Seven Arab League countries have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, Kapit said, most recently Yemen, in October 2017. “Their capacity to take action is restrained by the politics of the situation, but their endorsement is significant,” she said.
Sudan has also endorsed the declaration. “Their intelligence services were using school buildings, but in April they evacuated three schools and the government issued a directive that the armed services should not be using schools,” Kapit said. “We see signs of progress.”
In Syria and Yemen, the increased use of airstrikes in the period of the survey caused a conspicuous increase in the number of civilian casualties, which includes schools and universities, Kapit said.
Among the report’s findings in other countries:
Egypt: University student protests turned violent in the period after the overthrow of the former president Muhammad Mursi, with Egyptian security forces killing and injuring dozens of students and arresting more than 1,000. Additionally, unknown individuals and armed groups, including some affiliated with the so-called Islamic State, increasingly attacked civilians and civilian institutions, including students, educators, and education buildings, in the Sinai peninsula.
Iraq: According to information shared by the United Nations, at least 350 schools were damaged or destroyed in Iraq, and at least 100 teachers and 60 students were killed, injured, threatened or abducted. Dozens of schools and universities were used for military purposes by parties to the conflict. Armed groups recruited children and youth from schools. There were also at least 70 reported attacks on higher-education facilities, students, and personnel.
Palestine: In the West Bank, military operations by Israeli security forces and attacks by Israeli settlers harmed Palestinian students, education personnel, schools, and universities. In Gaza, airstrikes and mortar shells damaged or destroyed hundreds of Palestinian schools and universities, most of them in 2014. Several Israeli schools and buses transporting Israeli students were also damaged. Multiple parties used dozens of schools and universities as bases, for weapons storage, or for military training in the West Bank and Gaza.
Libya: Aerial bombings, car bombs, grenades, and other explosives damaged and destroyed hundreds of schools and universities in Libya. Armed groups used kidnapping to generate income, their victims including teachers, professors, and students at the primary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.
Sudan: Bombing, shelling, arson, and looting damaged or destroyed hundreds of schools and killed and injured students and school personnel in the Darfur region and in Southern Kordofan, Abyei, and Blue Nile states. School and university students, as well as school teachers, were also reportedly targeted for their perceived opposition, and were attacked with live and rubber bullets, tear gas, batons, and other means.
Syria: Schools and universities were attacked by multiple participants in the conflict. Several hundred educational institutions were damaged or destroyed during airstrikes that killed more than 1,000 students and education personnel. The use of schools by state and non-state armed groups as detention centers, military bases, and sniper posts also impeded education. In areas controlled by armed groups, boys faced the threat of being recruited at schools or along the route to and from them, and some armed groups altered local curricula to fit their ideology.
Yemen: Airstrikes and bombings affected as many as 1,500 schools and 100 universities in Yemen. Individually targeted attacks by non-state armed groups killed or injured almost 100 university students and personnel. Armed forces and non-state armed groups used dozens of schools and universities for military purposes, particularly in the contested city of Taizz.
Data for the report were provided by a variety of sources, including United Nations agencies and local humanitarian organizations. Obtaining information from some of the Arab countries under consideration was more difficult than from others, Kapit said. Syria, for example, “has really good human-rights organizations that do a lot of reporting,” she said. On the other hand, “Libya is not very well represented on our list of countries. Libya is hard to get information from because of the lack of international agencies there.”