Education Under Attack 2022

A Report by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack

I wasn't able to go to school for the whole of last year because of the virus. And this year I dare not go. I want to go to school, but I’m scared. Although the school gates are closed, there are soldiers inside, and I’m afraid of the soldiers. I’m afraid that there might be a bomb blast at our school while we are there. A 10-year-old girl from Magway region, Myanmar, in June 2021.[*] "Myanmar: More than 100 Attacks on Schools in May,” Save the Children news release, June 11, 2021 (accessed March 29, 2022).

Education under Attack 2022

A global study of attacks on schools, universities, their students and staff, in 2020 and 2021.

Education is under attack around the world. From Afghanistan to Colombia, Mali to Thailand, students and teachers are killed, raped, and abducted, while schools and universities are bombed, burned down, and used for military purposes.

In 2020 and 2021, there were more than 5,000 reported attacks on education and incidents of military use of schools and universities, harming more than 9,000 students and educators in at least 85 countries. On average, six attacks on education or incidents of military use occurred each day.

In the 28 countries profiled in this report, at least 10 attacks on education occurred over the past 2 years.

Attacks and military use increased

Attacks on education and military use of schools and universities increased during the 2020-2021 reporting period but the number of students and educators harmed declined, compared to the two years prior.

In 2020 and 2021, GCPEA identified over 5,000 reported attacks on education and incidents of military use, harming or killing at least 9,000 students and educators. In comparison, GCPEA collected more than 4,300 reported attacks and military use incidents in 2018 and 2019, harming or killing approximately 9,400 students and educators.

Countries where attacks increased included: Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, and Nigeria. Countries where attacks decreased included: Ukraine, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Attacks on education and military use and people harmed
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Attacks on schools were the most common

Attacks on schools[*] Attacks on schools include targeted violent attacks on pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools by state armed forces or non-state armed groups, as well as indiscriminate attacks due to airstrikes, shelling, or armed combat. This category also includes attacks on educational infrastructure, such as playgrounds and school libraries. were the most common form of attack on education, making up two-thirds of all reported incidents. In 2020 and 2021, GCPEA collected reports of over 3,000 attacks on schools. Armed groups or armed forces bombed or burned schools, looted their materials, or threatened them.

Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Palestine were the countries most affected by attacks on schools, experiencing over 400 each.

During the month of June 2020, the Mali Education Cluster received 516 reports of attacks on schools by armed groups, including 489 threats against schools, 11 schools burned, 2 school administrative offices burned, two incidents of looting, and 12 other attacks.[*] Information received via email from a humanitarian organization, August 7, 2020.

Attacks on schools
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Over 4,700 school students and staff were injured, killed, abducted, arrested, or harmed

Over 630 attacks on students, teachers, and other education personnel[*] Attacks on students, teachers, and other education personnel include killings, injuries, torture, abductions, forced disappearances, and threats of violence, such as coercion or extortion, that occur at, or on the way to or from, school. Education personnel include teaching staff, administrators, and school support staff. These attacks were distinct from students or teachers injured or killed in attacks on schools and universities. were reported in 2020 and 2021. In these attacks, over 2,400 students or education staff were reportedly injured, killed, abducted, or threatened, and around 2,300 were reportedly arrested or detained.

In Nigeria, more than 1,000 students were kidnapped from schools between December 2020 and September 2021.[*] “Gunmen seize over 70 high-school students in northwest Nigeria,” Al Jazeera, September 1, 2021, (accessed February 11, 2022). In just one incident, armed assailants abducted 344 boy students from the Government Science Secondary School and killed a security guard in Kankara, Katsina state, on December 11, 2020.[*]Sam Olukoya and Carley Petesch, "Boko Haram claims abduction of students in northern Nigeria," The Associated Press, December 16, 2020, (accessed December 16, 2020);
"Over 300 schoolboys still missing after Nigeria school attack," Al Jazeera, December 13, 2020, (accessed December 13, 2020).

Attacks on school students and educators
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Military use of schools and universities more than doubled

Globally, military occupation of schools and universities more than doubled in 2020 and 2021, as compared to 2018 and 2019, rising to over 570 reported incidents. Driving this increase was a spike in the military use of education facilities in Myanmar, where nearly 40 percent of all such cases occurred. Military use also increased in Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Iraq.

In Myanmar, security forces used 176 schools and universities across at least 13 states and regions, between February and September 2021.[*]UNICEF, “Humanitarian Situation Report No. 2, April 2021,” UNICEF, April 2021, (accessed May 10, 2021), p. 2. UNICEF, “ Humanitarian Situation Report No. 6, September 2021,” UNICEF, September 28, 2021, (accessed October 15, 2021), p. 2. In one example, on March 7, 2021, the Myanmar military allegedly occupied Hakha University in Hakha city, Chin state, as a base camp.[*]"Myanmar Junta Occupies Schools, Hospitals and Shutters 5 Media Outlets in Fresh Clampdown," Radio Free Asia, March 8, 2021, (accessed May 5, 2021). Radio Free Asia, as cited in ACLED, Event ID MMR13199 (data downloaded April 13, 2021)

Military use of schools or universities
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Children were recruited from schools

At least one case of child recruitment at, or on the way to or from, school[*] Child recruitment at, or on the way to or from, school occurs when armed forces or non-state armed group use schools or school routes as locales for recruiting girls and boys under the age of 18 to act as fighters, spies, or intelligence sources; for domestic work; to transport weapons or other materials; or for any other purpose associated with the armed force or group. was documented in four countries in 2020 and 2021: Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Yemen.

School closures due to Covid-19 meant that children were less likely to be recruited at school or along school routes, though child recruitment appeared to increase outside school contexts in some places.[*] COALICO, “Monitoring bulletin no. 24 (Boletín de monitoreo No. 24),” January-December 2020, (accessed February 19, 2021), p. 21.

In Colombia, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old student were reportedly recruited while on their way to school by a non-state armed group in Las Mercedes indigenous reservation in Cauca department, in September 2021.[*] "Indigenous group destroyed rifles and munitions belonging the FARC dissidents in Cauca (Indígenas destruyeron fusiles y municiones pertenecientes a las disidencias de las Farc en Cauca)" Infobae, September 19, 2021, (accessed September 20, 2021). Carlos Quilindo, Twitter, September 15, 2021, (accessed September 20, 2021).

Child recruitment at, or on the way to or from, school
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Sexual violence was reported in seven countries

Reports that armed forces, law enforcement, or non-state armed groups committed sexual violence at, or on the way to or from, school or university[*] Sexual violence at, or on the way to or from, school or university occurs when armed forces, law enforcement, other state security entities, or non-state armed groups rape, sexually harass, or abuse students or educators of all genders; abduct students or educators for sexual purposes; recruit students or educators to serve a sexual function in an armed force or group; or threaten to engage in such conduct. were recorded in seven countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Turkey.

In Democratic Republic of Congo, unidentified armed men attacked a student dormitory in Rungu, Isirio territory, Haut Uélé province, where around 30 students were lodging to take their primary school exit exam, on August 30, 2020. In the night, the armed attackers entered the building and allegedly raped at least one female student.[*] AFP; Actualité, as cited in ACLED, Event ID DRC18597 (data downloaded January 12, 2021). AFP, "DR Congo attackers disrupt school final exams, rape students," Macau Business News, September 1, 2020, (accessed January 12, 2021). Reuters, "Two students, teacher killed in DR Congo school attack," Al Jazeera, August 29, 2020, (accessed January 19, 2021).

Sexual violence at, or on the way to or from, school or university
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Higher education students, staff, and facilities came under attack

Over 320 attacks on higher education students, professors, and personnel or higher education facilities were reported in 2020 and 2021. Over 580 university students or personnel were injured, abducted, or killed in attacks, and another 1,450 were detained, arrested, or convicted. Approximately one-fourth of attacks were on higher education facilities.

In India, police detained more than 100 academics and higher education personnel peacefully protesting for payment of overdue salaries at Delhi University, in New Delhi, on September 5, 2020.[*] Scholars at Risk Network, Academic Freedom Monitor, Delhi University, September 05, 2020, (accessed March 8, 2021); Basant Kumar Mohanty, "DU teachers’ association observes ‘Black Teachers’ Day’ to protest delay in grants," The Telegraph, September 6, 2020, (accessed March 9, 2021).

In Yemen, ground-launched explosives reportedly struck near the Taizz University Faculty of Arts, injuring at least four civilians, including students, and killing one civilian, on March 21, 2021. The university stopped classes for a week following the attack.[*] Al Khabar Post; Yemen Data Project,as cited in ACLED, Event ID YEM63564 (data downloaded July 1, 2021). "Yemen. Dead and wounded in clashes in Hajjah and Marib governorates, and the Houthis bomb Taiz University after tightening the siege east of the city (اليمن.. قتلى وجرحى في مواجهات بمحافظتي حجة ومأرب والحوثيون يقصفون جامعة تعز بعد إحكام الحصار شرقي المدينة)," Al Jazeera, March 21, 2021, (accessed July 6, 2021). "The College of Arts in Taiz announces the suspension of studies for a week after it was targeted by Houthi shells (كلية الآداب في تعز تعلن تعليق الدراسة لمدة أسبوع عقب استهدافها بقذائف حوثية)," Al-Share News, March 22, 2021, (accessed July 6, 2021). Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, as cited in Insecurity Insight, Education in Danger Monthly News Brief, April 2021, (accessed July 6, 2021), p. 4. "The College of Arts in Taiz announces the suspension of studies for a week after it was targeted by Houthi shells (كلية الآداب في تعز تعلن تعليق الدراسة لمدة أسبوع عقب استهدافها بقذائف حوثية)," Al-Share News, March 22, 2021, (accessed July 6, 2021).

Attacks on higher education
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Girls and women were targeted in some attacks

Girls and women were reportedly targeted because of their gender in attacks on education in at least 11 countries. In certain contexts, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, armed groups targeted female students and teachers or their education facilities in efforts to obstruct their access to education.

In Afghanistan, a non-state armed group targeted girls in a car bomb attack at a school in Kabul, on May 8, 2021. Around 85 people, mostly school girls, were killed in the attack and 147 people were injured.[*] “Urgent to Protect Girls & Education in Conflict Said UN Officials After Deadly Attack in Afghanistan,” SRSG Virginia Gamba and SRSG Dr Najat Maalla M’jid, Office of SRSG CAAC, May 12, 2021, (accessed June 2, 2021). Heather Barr, “Killing Schoolgirls in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, May 10, 2021, (accessed June 2, 2021). Jennifer Deaton and Sheena McKenzie, “Death toll rises to 85 in Afghanistan girls' school bomb attack,” CNN, May 10, 2021, (accessed May 28, 2021).

Attacks on education targeting girls or women
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Explosive weapons were commonly used

Explosive weapons were used in around one-fifth of all reported attacks on education in 2018 and 2019. These attacks involved airstrikes, artillery shelling, landmines, improvised explosive devices, and explosive remnants of war and often caused the damage or destruction of schools and universities and harmed or killed students and educators. Explosive weapons attacks were most frequently reported in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen.

In Palestine, during an 11-day escalation of hostilities in May 2021, explosive weapons damaged or destroyed around 191 schools and education administrative buildings, 19 higher education facilities, and 80 kindergartens.[*] "Education Cluster Report on Damage in Educational Facilities Gaza Strip," Occupied Palestinian Territory Education Cluster, July 2021, (accessed September 22, 2021), p. 2. "Samar Al Moghany, "Assessment of Damages to Kindergartens in Gaza Post Escalation," Save the Children report, June 2021, on file.

Explosive weapons severely damaged a school in the frontline village of Shyrokyne in eastern Ukraine, in April 2021. © 2021 UNICEF/UN0584681/Filippov
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Attacks continued during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in prolonged periods of school closures around the world, did not slow attacks on education or the military use of schools and universities. In fact, attacks and military use increased by one-third in 2020, compared to the year prior, with some violations becoming particularly prominent.

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, police responded with excessive violence to students’ and educators’ protests over policies related to the closure or re-opening of schools and universities during the pandemic, including using water cannons and teargas.

In other countries, such as Colombia, after lockdown measures were lifted, schools that sustained damage in attacks had delayed re-openings or reopened with damaged facilities.

A survivor of the May 8, 2021, bombing of Sayed Al-Shuhada school in Kabul, Afghanistan, looks inside a classroom days after the attack. © 2021 UNICEF/UN0514375/UNICEF Afghanistan
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Recommendations

GCPEA recommends the following to address attacks on education and the military use of schools and universities:

  • Parties to armed conflict should immediately cease unlawful attacks on education.
  • Governments should endorse, implement, and support the Safe Schools Declaration to ensure that all students and educators can learn and teach in safety.
  • Armed forces and armed groups should avoid using schools and universities for military purposes, including by using the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
  • Governments and monitoring bodies should strengthen monitoring and reporting of attacks on education.
  • Governments and international justice institutions should systematically investigate attacks on education and prosecute those responsible.
  • Where feasible, governments should maintain safe access to education during armed conflict.
  • Education providers should ensure that any post-Covid-19 “back-to-school” campaigns and catch-up classes include learners who previously ended their studies due to attacks on schools, insecurity, or displacement.

View the report for a full set of recommendations.

Acknowledgements

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) includes: Amnesty International, Education Above All Foundation, the Institute of International Education (IIE), Human Rights Watch, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Plan International, Save the Children, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Education under Attack 2022 is the result of independent research conducted by GCPEA. It is independent of the individual member organizations of the GCPEA Steering Committee and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Steering Committee member organizations.

Generous support for Education under Attack 2022 has been provided be the Education Above All Foundation, Education Cannot Wait, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and an anonymous donor.

Contributors:

Senior Researchers: Jerome Marston and Marika Tsolakis
Research Consultant: Felicity Pearce
Contributing Researchers and Writers: Lucia Cadavid Arango, Renna Bazlen, Allison Filosa, Manali Joshi, Gideon Olanrewaju

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