This report documents how both Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed militants have carried out indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on schools. Both sides have used schools for military purposes, deploying forces in and near schools, which has turned schools into legitimate military targets. The resulting destruction has forced many children out-of-school and many schools to stop operating or to operate under overcrowded and difficult conditions, Human Rights Watch found.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 62 students, teachers, principals, and witnesses for the report, and visited 41 schools and kindergartens, located both in government-controlled areas and territories controlled by Russia-backed militants.
For further information, see Human Rights Watch's news item on the report.
This legal factsheet accompanies the Right to Education Initiative’s multimedia essay Caught in the crossfire: The right to education in eastern Ukraine. It has been made available for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.
The SMM has been monitoring the ability of children on both sides of the contact line in Donetsk and Luhansk regions to attend classes and enjoy a safe and secure school environment since 2015. In the report, the SMM presents its observations related to damage to educational buildings due to shelling and gunfire; dangers posed by mines and UXO; educational facilities used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces or the armed formations or where positions and equipment are close to educational facilities; hardships faced by children and educational staff; and impediments to the SMM’s access to information on educational facilities. The report covers the SMM’s observations from 1 January 2015 until 31 March 2020.
At the end of 2019, at least 13.4 million school-age children (5-17 years old) were internally displaced due to conflict or violence. These numbers are likely an underestimate with many internally displaced children unaccounted for due to lack of data. The periods of internal displacement are becoming longer, with years becoming decades and internally displaced children spending the majority of their school-years displaced. The majority of these children do not have access to quality, safe and inclusive education due to discrimination, financial, legal, and insecurity barriers.
The five country case studies (Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia, Syria Ukraine) in this report demonstrate that adopting legal and policy frameworks is not enough to uphold the right to education for internally displaced children. Challenges to implementing these policies are linked to institutional, financial, political, and cultural factors.