Protecting education from attack in armed conflict

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Even in a conflict or war, upholding the right to education, and refraining from harm to children, education personnel or schools is fundamental. There are several international efforts for protecting education during armed conflict and other emergencies.

Young Ukrainians have continuously worked for a better future, which is now at risk. We are determined to support Ukrainian students, young people, teachers and educators in these extremely challenging times – Statement by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.

Schools and other education institutions should always be safe havens to foster peace. Still, during armed conflict, combatants might directly target or destroy schools, or occupy them for military use. In over 11,000 attacks between 2015 and 2019, more than 22,000 students, teachers and academics were injured, killed, or harmed (data from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack). The Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science has launched a website to document the number of ruined or destroyed educational institutions in Ukraine as a result of the Russian aggression.

The EU has published a handbook on Education in Emergencies in EU-funded Humanitarian Aid Operations. It includes examples of proactive and reactive interventions to protect education from attack, such as monitoring and reporting attacks on schools, and advocating for the Safe Schools Declaration. This is an inter-governmental political commitment, endorsed by 114 States, to protect students, teachers and education institutions from the worst effects of armed conflict. It acts as an instrument for states to support and implement the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

Other key tools for protecting schools from attack include the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1998 and the related Protect Schools + Hospitals Guidance Note.

For current updates and resources, please see our article Education and support for Ukrainian refugees.

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