Restrict Military Use of Education Institutions

Around the world, armies and rebel groups are taking over schools and universities, converting learning sites into places of war. In classrooms, soldiers sleep and store weapons. In school offices, they detain and torture suspects. Playgrounds become training grounds. School grounds become battlegrounds.

A Ukrainian soldier walks through an abandoned school that was destroyed by repeated artillery barrages in the frontline village of Pisky, near Donetsk CREDIT: JACK LOSH, 2016

Militaries frequently use schools and other education institutions for shelter or housing, strategic positioning, or storage. This ranges from short-term or temporary uses, such as firing positions and overnight shelters; to intermediate uses, such as military training grounds and detention centers; to long-term or indefinite uses, such as weapons caches and operating bases.

In the majority of countries with armed conflicts, armed forces or armed groups use schools and other education institutions. During the period of 2015 – 2019, GCPEA identified reports of military use of school and universities in at least 34 countries (view the countries).

Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Colombia, DRC, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela,  Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

When education institutions are used for military purposes, the impact on individuals and societies can be severe and include:

Death of students and educational personnel and the destruction of infrastructure and educational material. When armed forces or armed groups enter an education institution, it stops being a safe place for students and teachers and can become a target for enemy attack.

Denial and threat to the right to life; education; and interrelated civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Psychosocial distress and a range of health issues affecting students, teachers, and communities including through witnessing and experiencing violence and abuse.

Disproportional impacts on women and girls. The presence of armed forces in or near schools increases the risk that students and teachers will be exposed to a range of abuse, including violence and recruitment. It presents particular dangers for female students, including a heightened risk of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Displacement of students and teachers to schools away from their home communities.

Disruptions in student attendance, reduced enrolment, high dropout rates and transition to higher grades.

Declines in the availability of teachers and quality education.

By endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, States have committed to use and bring into their domestic policy and operational frameworks The Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The Guidelines aim to reduce the use of schools and universities by parties to armed conflict in support of their military effort, and to minimize the negative impact that armed conflict has on students’ safety and education.

Learn more about the Guidelines and good practice on the protection of education from military use.

End Military Use of Schools Campaign

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Voices in Support of the Safe Schools Declaration

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GCPEA Resources

The Safe Schools Declaration: A Framework For Action
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Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict
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Commentary on the “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict”
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Implementing the Guidelines: A Toolkit to Guide Understanding and Implementation of the Guidelines
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Practical Impact of the Safe Schools Declaration
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Report of the Addis Ababa workshop on strengthening the role of armed forces in the protection of education from attack
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Lessons in War 2015: Military Use of Schools and Universities during Armed Conflict
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Protect Schools and Universities from Military Use
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