Panafrican News Agency

Global education protection raises red flag on education attacks in West, Central Africa

New York (PANA) - Universities, schools, students, teachers, and academics in West and Central Africa have suffered over 2,500 attacks over the past five years, a global education protection body said here Thursday.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) unveiled the development in a 300 page report.

Nine countries from the region are included in the report titled “Education under Attack 2020”.

It details the systematic targeting of teachers and students, the excessive use of force against university student and staff protests.

The report details the use of schools by armed forces and non-state armed groups for bases or training grounds.

''More than 11,000 attacks on education occurred globally between 2015 and 2019 with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Yemen the most heavily affected,'' said the report.

Attacks on education include bombing and burning schools and universities, and killing, maiming, raping, abducting and arbitrarily arresting students.

Also, the armed forces and non-state actors are recruiting students and educators at or en route to and from educational institutions.

The education sector suffers during conflict or insecurity.

“Pursuing an education is a fundamental right, yet in West and Central Africa, the lives of students and educators are at risk,'' said Diya Nijhowne, executive director of GCPEA.

“They are attacked and brutalised simply for teaching and learning,” added Nijhowne..

GCPEA said that it found that the number of countries experiencing attacks on education had increased in recent years.

Between 2015 and 2019, 93 countries experienced at least one reported attack on education, up from 74 countries in the previous reporting period of 2013-2017.

In West and Central Africa, GCPEA recorded isolated attacks on education in 10 additional countries in the region, including Benin, Chad, Ghana, and Senegal.

Attacks on education emerged in new countries throughout the region.

In Burkina Faso and Niger, which had only been minimally affected in previous years, attacks on schools and school personnel rose starkly, contributing to the closure of more than 2,000 schools

“Students or teachers were the target of direct attacks throughout the region. In Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, non-state armed groups abducted, threatened, or killed students and teachers.

Attacks on higher education were reported in 73 countries globally, said the global coalition.

In many cases, law enforcement and military forces used excessive, even lethal, force to disperse university students and protesting staff.

Armed groups or armed forces also targeted schools to recruit children.

A significant - and preventable - cause of attacks was the use of schools for military purposes, GCPEA found.

Armed forces, security forces, or armed groups were reportedly responsible for sexual violence in or on the way to or from schools and universities in at least 17 countries in the past five years.

The overall number of attacks globally declined slightly from the 2013-2017 reporting period, from 12,700.

Attacks on education not only kill or injure individual students and teachers but also impact communities for years.

“Governments and armed groups should end attacks on education and refrain from using schools and universities for military purposes,” GCPEA said.

It called on countries to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect students, educators, schools, and universities in armed conflict.


-0-    PANA     DJ/RA    9Jul2020