top of page

Dangerous Schools

“Sudan school becomes the target of Aerial attack”


“More than 1000 schools have been bombed since the war began in Ukraine…”


“More than 200 schools in conflict zones closed in Libya”


Why are schools targeted during a war? Schools are used as military bases due to their somewhat “protective” status.


Schools and children are protected under laws of war and international human rights law. As outlined in the 1949 Geneva Convention, “The Occupying Power shall facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of the children.” Similarly in 2015, the UN Security Council passed resolution-225 which addresses government duties to protect children during wartime.


The international law restricts military use of schools however, it does not completely outlaw the practice. Hence, we have seen multiple examples of schools being used by both the rebels and the state security forces. Opposition groups in particular are known to target schools because these very institutes promote things they oppose like the government or the right to girl's education. This is particularly true for Somalia, where schools were bombed by Al-Shabab, and students either were killed or were forced to flee. In 2012, only 12% of Somalian boys and 8% of girls were enrolled in secondary schools. One of the lowest enrollment rates in the world. Al-Shabab even used students as “human shields.” Those left were recruited into the group. In 2010 alone Al-Shabab recruited 2000 child soldiers.


Is the situation better for the developed world? Unfortunately, no. The conflict in Ukraine led to the closure of 150 schools in 2014. International laws were clearly not effective in keeping schools and children safe during wartime. So, in 2015 more than 50 countries endorsed the “Safe School Declaration.” The declaration strongly discourages the military from occupying and damaging a functioning school or actions that would put the school in a harmed way. If we don't see more countries joining this declaration and taking initiatives we might see more casualties and damage to education. What do you think the way forward is?


Do you know which countries did not support this declaration? USA, Canada, Colombia, UK… I know what you are thinking and still nobody saw it coming. The world is seeing it today because the ones who should have, didn't see it earlier.


Read the Safe School Declaration country list here.

39 views10 comments

10 Comments


Thank you for sharing Mahnoor, the situation is indeed very alarming. If the expected wartime disruption of educational institutes wasn't enough, jeopardizing the future of these children, we've seen far too many examples of schools being targeted in conflict zones, due to alleged use for military operations chosen specifically for their being protected buildings. The international community needs to be doing more to ensure that 1. Schools aren't used for any military purpose, and 2. Bombings of schools need to be followed up rigorously to corroborate or disprove allegations of it being a military target by the attacking side. Transparency from both sides and strong intervention by the global community through sanctions and boycotts are the way forward if we…

Like
Replying to

I really appreciate your thoughts. Honestly, it is true when we say that it is a two way street. The international law ends up acting as the mediator only, and until and unless extremist groups, countries, and the so-called protectors do not view schools as a no-go nothing much can be done. There was this very interesting line I came across while reading one of the articles which said "dire year for the children caught in conflict," UN Peace and Security Council 2023. This article also divides the offenders of international law into categories for example, worst offenders. Isn't an offender an offender, no matter how big or small the crime might be? Do give it a read sometime: https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/06/1138137. Thank…

Like

The international community has taken steps to condemn and prevent attacks on schools. However, as the post notes, these efforts have not been entirely successful. I believe that the international community should provide more support to education in conflict zones, in terms of funding and protection. This could include providing schools with security measures or helping schools to reopen after attacks.

Like
Replying to

Thank you for your comment! That's a very basic map that we can draw after going through various case studies and implementation tools in this course. However, I think at this point we need to go into greater details, complexities, and context specificities. Otherwise, our future, the children will continue to suffer.

Like

Thank you for sharing this Mahnoor. Reading about the alarming attacks on schools in various conflict zones is truly distressing. The international laws aimed at safeguarding educational institutions and children during times of war, such as the 1949 Geneva Convention and the 2015 UN Security Council resolution, should ideally provide a protective shield. However, the sad reality is that these laws, while restricting military use of schools, have not been entirely effective in preventing such heinous acts. To address your question on the way forward, I think these nations need to advocate for stronger legal frameworks while collaborating with international legal bodies to ensure accountability. International human rights organizations can monitor and report on the compliance of countries with global…

Like
Replying to

Thank you for your comment Burhan! I believe the situation is way worse than how we try to put it into words. For instance, lets take the example of Syria and the long drawn history of conflict there. Millions of children have suffered, thousands of schools have been destroyed, and hundreds of people have lost of their jobs. Despite the clear violations of the international law, not much has been done against the perpetrators. Does this mean that the mediator bodies like the UN etc are just acting bodies with no real control over whats happening? How do we continue to trust them with our rights? Why do we continue to trust them? Such questions come up then. In Syrian context,…

Like

Thank you for the insight Mahnoor! The data shared here forces me to consider, however, why are the schools targeted so specifically amongst other institutions that carry public at mass levels (other than hospitals which too are targeted often breaching all international conventions).


But my question here is that what is then a solution? Global conflicts remain a reality till today and can exist in many forms including terrorism , small scale conflicts or wars. Is the world too polarised to now carry out education in the same form as it has been since centuries? Can we not allow students to go to hostile schools and get educated? Is online education a solution to such issues? Share your opinion please

Like
Replying to

Thank you for your comment Hammad!


These questions are very important. As we have seen in many examples of Somalia, and Rwanda to name a few, it is not always possible to make arrangements for online education. Even we can very well relate to the era of online education during the pandemic, and how it impacted our concentration span, overall critical skills, and generally the change in attitude towards work and academics. For online education, assuming we are talking about a country with higher living standards and on average every individual owns an electronic device, even then during conflicts connections to the wifi and networks are disrupted. How are children expected to study then? Lastly, I think the world has always…

Like

Thank you for sharing this.


We have talked in class multiple times about how, during conflict and war, schools are always affected, which disrupts children's education, decreasing their enrollment rates. These schools are then used for military purposes too. In one of the presentations, it was also discussed how groups like Boko Haram have also destroyed multiple schools, looted them, and used them for military purposes. So yes, during conflict, I believe children's education is affected a lot, especially when schools are destroyed. You also mentioned that in Somalia, rebel groups have attacked schools, so yes, it is really concerning to see that during conflict, schools are always destroyed and closed down, which again affects children's education in the long…

Like
Replying to

Thank you for your comment Naimol!

Yes, I rightly remember your presentation on Boko Haram. There can be many reasons why these major countries did not come forwards and support the Safe School Declaration. Sadly, the situation is no different today even. We see the same names standing with Israel today against Palestine. Firstly, for the US in specific, signing international declarations might be perceived as impinging on their sovereignty. US might want to address such issues of child and school safety during a conflict through national policies and legal frameworks. Secondly, a very common one is how governments do not always agree on the same stance. Governments may have policy differences or concerns about the specific wording and implications of…

Like
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page