What Is an Attack on Education?

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

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.

GCPEA defines attacks on education as any threatened or actual use of force against students, teachers, academics, education support and transport staff (e.g., janitors, bus drivers), education officials, education buildings, resources, or facilities (including school buses). In addition, armed forces and non-state armed groups use schools and universities for military purposes, putting them at risk of attack and denying students access to education.

Attacks on education kill and injure, lead to student drop out, the loss of teachers, and extended school and university closures. Such attacks diminish the quality of education and have devastating, long-term consequences for society; they also have unique impacts on girls and women, marginalized communities, and other groups.

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.