When schools become battlegrounds


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Two studies released this week highlight the grim reality that is increasingly dominating conflict zones – and taking a terrible toll on education, as we describe in the forthcoming 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, which will be released on March 1.

Since the Second World War, while the number of conflicts between countries has declined, the number of civil wars has steadily increased – bringing more and more civilians into the firing line, and exposing schools, schoolchildren and teachers to deadly violence.

An increasing number of children are being killed and injured in the Afghan conflict, mostly by the Taliban and other militants, according to the UN secretary-general’s latest report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan. In the report released Tuesday, which covers the period from 1 September 2008 to 30 August 2010, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for greater efforts to end grave violations against children in the country, including their use as child soldiers, sexual violence, killing and maiming.

Also released on Tuesday was a study by British and Swiss researchers, using data from the human rights group Iraq Body Count, which found that more than 92,600 civilians were killed in armed violence in Iraq from 2003 to 2008. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, found that most killings were committed by unknown perpetrators, often from extrajudicial executions, suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and mortars.

Education is often deliberately targeted in such violence, according to evidence outlined last month by Human Rights Watch in Schools as Battlegrounds, an essay in the organisation’s World Report 2011.  “Intentional targeting of education is a far-reaching if underreported phenomenon,” Zama Coursen-Neff and Bede Sheppard write in the essay.

As well as charting the impact of conflict on education, the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report sets out practical measures to protect schools, schoolchildren and teachers and ensure that access to education is maintained as much as possible in conflict zones.


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