Wednesday, March 12, 2014

India among 30 countries where 'education' attacked most often: Study

About 140 schools were attacked by militants in the period 2009-2012 --- a number high enough to put India in a list of the top 30 countries where education - teachers, institutions, students - has been the target of violence. Education Under Attack 2014, "a global study of threats or deliberate use of force against students, teachers, academics, education trade union members and government officials" was released recently.

The 30 countries have been divided into three categories: countries with a 1,000 or more attacks are "very heavily affected", the ones that have seen between 500 and 999 attacks from 2009 to early 2013 are "heavily affected" and those with less than 500 attacks are "other affected." 

India belongs to the third category along with several south Asian countries - Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, The Philippines. Afghanistan and Pakistan are both in the "very heavily affected" category with the Pakistani Taliban alone attacked over 830 schools. The same group, in 2012, attacked school girl Malala Yousafzai whose miraculous survival and subsequent campaign inspired the report. 

The previous two editions of Education Under Attack - 2007 and 2010 - were both by UNESCO. This one, covering over four years, is by the group Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). "Most attacks on education occurred in states affected by a long-running insurgency led by Maoist and other left-wing armed groups - also referred to as 'Naxalites'," says the report of the situation in India.

"Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa were among the states most affected by the conflict in 2008," says the report adding that the number of attacks "peaked" in 2009 and has "declined steeply" since. It cites a Home Ministry report from 2011 which stated there were 71 schools attacks in 2009, 39 in 2010 and 27 in 2011 across Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. Only 12 incidents were reported in 2012. 

A 2013 Save the Children commissioned study - Caught In Crossfire: Children and education in regions affected by civil strife - covering Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, had reported in detail on the state of schools in districts with high Maoist activity. However, Maoists weren't the only agents of violence - the GCPEA report also mentions attacks on Christian institutions by Hindu and Muslim extremists. In the final count - covering incidents reported by human rights groups and the media - "at least 13 teachers, one catering staff member and four students were killed from 2009 to 2012. At least 73 teachers and 11 students were injured. Seven teachers were abducted, five of whom were subsequently found dead, and at least two students were kidnapped."

The GCPEA study "examines threats and deliberate use of force against students, teachers, academics, education trade union members, government officials, aid workers and other education staff and attacks on schools, universities and other education buildings carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic or religious reasons in 2009-2013." It examines, in particular, use of education infrastructure by armed groups or national armed forces which it says is "one of the key factors that can lead to attacks on education." Of India, it says "there was widespread use of schools as barracks or bases by government forces, mostly in the east of the country."

Fact-file on Education Attacks:
Attacks on education was reported in at least 70 countries.

The 30 countries are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe.

In 24 of the 30 countries, armed non-state groups and/or state armed forces used schools as bases, barracks, weapons caches, detention centers and even torture chambers... These occupations lasted for weeks, months or, in some cases, years.

In 28 of the 30 countries, higher education facilities and/or students and staff were attacked or institutions were used for military purposes. Attacks damaged or destroyed university and college buildings in 17 of the 30 countries.

The six "very heavily affected" ones are: Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

In many countries, individual students, teachers, academics and other education staff were murdered, abducted, threatened with violence, or illegally detained or imprisoned, and in some cases tortured.

In some countries, children were captured en route to and from school or taken from their classrooms and recruited as soldiers.

Source: The Times of India, March 12, 2014

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