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Attacks targeting schools and educational staff on the rise – UN report

Attacks targeting schools and educational staff on the rise – UN report

Deliberate political or military violence targeting education systems, from the assassination or abduction of teachers and students to the bombings and burnings of schools and universities, has jumped dramatically in a number of countries around the world, according to a United Nations report released today.

The report from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that the perpetrators of most attacks committed them with impunity and there was limited if any systematic monitoring of incidents against schools or people connected to them.

It recommended the introduction of urgent measures to deter further attacks, including by giving extra resources to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring more education-related cases to trial.

Education under attack concluded that it was not clear yet whether the recent rise in targeted attacks on students, educational staff and institutions reflected a disturbing new trend or merely the fluctuating levels of conflict around the world.

The situation is worst in Iraq, where only 30 per cent of the country’s 3.5 million pupils attend classes now, down from 75 per cent a year ago. At least 3,000 academics have fled the country – partly in response to the killing of 280 of their colleagues since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 – and Baghdad’s universities say that attendance there has slumped by two thirds.

But violent attacks are also preventing pupils from attending school or university in other countries, especially Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand.

The nature of the attacks varies widely, from the abduction of thousands of children to work as child soldiers to the multiple bomb blasts that have killed dozens of students at schools in Iraq.

Launching the report today at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura urged national authorities and the international community to stand united against such attacks.

“Education is one of the pillars of development, prosperity and peace,” Mr. Matsuura said. “It is a human right. We must do our utmost to defend and ensure the security of those who are working in this vital area.”

The report calls for stepped-up action worldwide to end impunity for attacks and the need for wider application of human rights instruments to protect students and teachers who face attacks.

It is dedicated to the memory of Safia Ama Jan, who UNESCO lauds as “a champion of efforts to get Afghan girls into school, who was shot and killed outside her home in Kandahar in September, 2006.”