New data reveals attacks against education around the world


New and updated data of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) shows that more than 14,000 armed attacks on education took place in the last five years in 34 conflict-affected countries. The GCPEA, of which UNESCO is a founding member, released the new data ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration. High-level representatives from over 90 countries are gathering in Palma de Mallorca, Spain on 28-29 May 2019 at the Third International Conference on Safe Schools to mark the occasion and encourage other states to endorse the Declaration. 

“The fact that more than 14,000 attacks have taken place over the past five years across 34 countries is shattering,” said UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini, speaking at the Conference.

The Conference provides a forum to share experiences, raise awareness, and increase the visibility of the Declaration and the Guidelines. It is also an occasion to encourage future cooperation and deeper gender responsive implementation of the Declaration and the Guidelines.

The new GCPEA data reveals that there were some 10,000 attacks on schools, including buildings that were bombed, damaged or used by armed forces or groups. Nine countries each suffered more than 500 attacks on schools. Higher education facilities have come under siege in at least 20 countries around the world.

The research also found that in at least 30 countries, schools were used for military purposes. Girl and women students and teachers were also directly targeted in at least 18 countries through bombings of girls’ schools, abduction, rape, and harassment.

To date, 89 countries - almost half of all UN Member States - have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and committed to taking concrete action to end targeting of schools and universities, students and staff. 

”The Palma Conference is an opportunity to build on this tremendous momentum and encourage all UN members to join the Declaration and ensure that the right to education can become a reality for all,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA Executive Director.  

As the UN agency with a mandate in higher education, UNESCO is appealing to all countries to protect education at all levels, including higher education, from attack during armed conflict.  

“Attacks against education are attacks against knowledge and the power it brings to transform lives, to build the future,” said Ms. Giannini. “The need to protect education in contexts of crisis and conflict - and to make it a force for reconciliation - has never been more urgent.”

In 2018, UNESCO launched the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative to rebuild the heritage and revitalize the educational and cultural institutions of Mosul. The Organization will invest its technical expertise and mobilize funding to support the country rebuild the education sector. UNESCO will also focus on the rehabilitation and modernization of the University of Mosul’s library, which was destroyed during the war.