New UNESCO report warns of rise in global attacks on teachers, students

10:29, February 13, 2010      

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Friday sounded the alarm in their newest report launched here on the rise of global attacks against teachers and students, warning that such politically and ideologically motivated attacks undermine the basic right for children to have an education.

Speaking at the launch for UNESCO's 2010 report titled " Education Under Attack" at the UN Headquarters in New York, Mark Richmond, director for UNESCO's coordination of UN priorities in education, told reporters that the report highlights that for some children, it has become "life-threatening" just to attend school.

A follow-up to the 2007 first-ever global study on the issue, the report found that education was attacked in at least 32 countries between January 2007 and July 2009.

"The number of reported attacks on education had dramatically increased in the preceding three years," the report said.

"UNESCO is in fact outraged that something like the pursuit of basic education, the fulfillment to the right of education and the fulfillment to academic freedom are being held back by deliberate violence, some which take horrendous forms," Richmond said.

Some of the worst-affected countries included Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and Nepal -- where the report noted that most " attacks occur in conflict-affected areas or under regimes with a poor record on human rights and democratic pluralism."

The number of attacks almost tripled in Afghanistan from 242 to 670 from 2007 to 2008, while nearly 300 schools were reportedly blown up by rebels in India from 2006-2009, the report said.

"Without education, the very possibility of development is being denied," Richmond said. "Gains that have been made in past years have been reversed by calculated and targeted violence directly against teachers, pupils and educational institutions."

At the launch of the report here, the author Brendan O'Malley noted the trends in vulnerable areas, such as the gunning down of groups of children in Afghanistan, targeted assassinations of teachers in Thailand and abductions and kidnappings in Haiti and in the Philippines.

Illegal detention and torture, forced disappearance, sexual violence, recruitment for labor and armed groups, and mass poisoning in educational institutions are some of the various methods of attacks, O'Malley said.

In addition, he said that there were a wide-range of motives of why the attacks took place, where he noted rebel groups may oppose educational institutions due to ideological reasons, in which they could be seen as a symbol of western values and tools of assimilation.

"They are attacking schools as a symbol of government power because they are easy targets because it reduces stability or degrades infrastructure," O'Malley also noted.

Preventing future attacks hinges on understanding their motives, the report stressed, even though analysis is impeded by factors including limited quality monitoring and reporting and the suppression of information in situations where perpetrators are repressive regimes.

The study called for involving communities in the running and defense of schools and for renegotiating the re-opening of schools, based on research and a successful program in Afghanistan.

Community initiatives have been encouraged in the Asian nation since 2006 to mobilize people to deter or resist attacks, with school protection shura, or councils, having been set up.

The report also recommended protective measures such as providing armed groups at schools or for aiding in transportation to or from school and providing distance learning if schools were deemed unsafe.

The new report was launched jointly with a second UNESCO publication called "Protecting Education from Attack: A State-of- the-Art Review," comprising case studies and examinations of international law in preventing and responding to attacks.

Source: Xinhua
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