Today marks the third UN International Day to Protect Education from Attack. As 2022 advances with attacks on education occurring from DRC to Ukraine, from Cameroon to Syria, the need to galvanise efforts, energy and commitment behind the protection of education in the context of armed conflict is sadly more urgent than ever.
According to GCPEA, between 2020 and 2021 more than 9,000 students, teachers and academics ‘were harmed, injured or killed in attacks on education during armed conflict’. The quantity of attacks on education facilities, educators and students continues its upward trajectory, with some 5000 recorded over the past two years.
What is at risk when education is under attack? Education is fundamental to young peoples’ futures. It is an enabler right, providing the basis for access to a range of other rights over a lifetime. Imperilling access to education thus threatens the right to education itself.
Yet it is not only learning which is at risk, but physical wellbeing, safety and psychological health. No child or educator should face violence while attempting to attend an educational context. No educational facility should suffer damage through shelling, bombing or occupation. No student should fear or suffer the threat of physical harm or abduction while trying to learn.
The right to education is not waived during armed conflict. States are bound by international law to uphold the right to education during the contexts of armed violence and conflict. To date, some 114 states have signed the Safe Schools Declaration - this is a vital step in committing to upholding the right to education and in signalling accountability.
We applaud those states who have taken this step. Now it falls to civil society organisations and the education community to monitor states’ progress in upholding the right to education in times of conflict. Monitoring is vital for collecting data, documenting and reporting human rights violations, and where necessary, advocating for change and claiming rights.
In 2021, we published two guides to enable civil society organisations and journalists to monitor the right to education. These guides break down the monitoring process into accessible steps and provide targeting guidance on how, what and when to monitor, and to whom findings should be presented, and provide differing advice, information and tips to journalists and civil society organisations.
The guides developed out of our work into the right to education in eastern Ukraine between 2014-2019, and the violations of the right to education over this period. In 2020, we published a photo essay called ‘Caught in the crossfire: the right to education in eastern Ukraine’, with an accompanying legal factsheet.
As students and teachers continue to face violence and the right to education is under sustained attack in multiple contexts, we continue to work on this issue, and the right to education is a reality for all.
Contact us for more information about our work on education under attack, or to understand more about monitoring.
Resources on education under attack