Attacks surge on education staff, facilities in Palestine, Syria and Yemen, HRW says

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There is a significant increase in attacks on students, teachers and academics over the past two years in Palestine, Syria and Yemen, a report published by Human Rights Watch said.

Attacks have intensified in these countries this year, along with Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Mozambique and Azerbaijan, according to the report.

“Researchers for ‘Education under Attack 2022’ found that the number of attacks on education and the military use of schools increased from 2019 to 2020 by one-third, and continued at this heightened rate in 2021, even as schools and universities around the world closed for prolonged periods during the pandemic,” the HRW report said.

“It is crucial for governments and armed groups to end attacks on education, and stop using schools and universities for military purposes,” said Diya Nijhowne, Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) executive director.

“Governments should investigate attacks and prosecute those responsible for abuses. In post-Covid-19 ‘back to school’ campaigns, they need to fully integrate students affected by attacks, expanding alternative education programs developed during the pandemic as necessary.”

Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science, along with civil society groups, said that more than 1,000 schools and universities have been damaged in Ukraine since 24 Feb.

The report said that attacks on education “involved armed forces and non-state armed groups bombing and burning schools and universities, and killing, injuring, raping, abducting, arbitrarily arresting, and recruiting students and educators at or near educational institutions during armed conflict.”

Armed forces, security forces or armed groups were reportedly responsible for sexual violence in schools and universities in at least seven countries, including Yemen, it added.

In Palestine, large numbers of students and educators have been threatened, abducted, injured or killed, the report said, adding that airstrikes damaged a quarter of Gaza’s schools during an escalation of hostilities in May 2021.

“The Covid-19 pandemic did not slow attacks on education. In fact, some violations became more prominent in 2020 and 2021,” the report said.

“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,” it added.

In Palestine, “schools that had sustained damage during attacks experienced delayed reopenings, or reopened with damaged facilities.”

This report was released on the seventh anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect education in armed conflict, endorsed by 114 countries. (Source: Arab News)

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