What Is an Attack on Education?

In Pakistan on 16 July, a government high school has been partly destroyed in Qambar Village in Swat Valley, in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). People have begun returning to the area after having been displaced for months by the recent intense fighting.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1111/Marta Ramoneda
Students and educators in situations of armed conflict face violence every day. Schools and universities should be safe havens, where communities can work toward a better future. Instead, in many places, these institutions have become the targets of violent attacks for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, religious or criminal reasons.

Attacks on education are any intentional threat or use of force—carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, religious, or criminal reasons—against students, educators, and education institutions.

Attacks on education may be perpetrated by:

  • State security forces, including armed forces, law enforcement, paramilitary, and militia forces acting on behalf of the state.
  • Non-state armed groups.

Attacks on education include attacks on:

  • Students of all ages.
  • Educators, including school teachers, academics, other education personnel, members of teacher unions, and education aid workers.
  • Education institutions: any site used for the purposes of education, including all levels of education and non-formal education facilities, and buildings dedicated to the work of ministries of education and other education administration.

Attacks on students and educators include:

  • Attacks directed at students and educators at education institutions, including abduction, recruitment into armed groups, forced labor, sexual violence, targeted killings, threats and harassment, and other violations.
  • Attacks while going to or coming from an education institution or elsewhere because of their status as students or educators.
  • Attacks on pro-education activists, including teacher unions or any teaching group, because of their activism.
  • Attacks on education personnel, such as administrators and maintenance workers, and education aid workers.

The occupation or use of education institutions by armed forces or other armed groups can lead to attacks on education institutions and can displace educators and students, denying students access to education.