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Rise in 'shool terror attacks'
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News, education and family
"Brutal attacks" on teachers and pupils are being used as a tactic of terror and political violence, says an international report.
A report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization warns of a "significant increase" in attacks on education.
These include assassinations and bomb attacks on staff and pupils in 31 countries around the world.
The report warns of the "degradation" of communities facing such atrocities.
"Education under Attack 2010", a report from the United Nations agency published on Wednesday, reveals a pattern of systematic attacks on teachers, pupils, schools and universities.
Warning of a rise in attacks in the past three years, the report highlights teachers being murdered in Thailand, the destruction of schools in Afghanistan, sexual attacks on schoolgirls in the Democratic Republic of Congo and "narco-guerrillas" trying to control schools in Brazil.
TYPES OF SCHOOL ATTACK
- Kidnapping and torture
- Gun and rocket attacks
- Mass poisoning
- Sexual violence
- Burning buildings
- Forced recruitment of child soldiers Source: Unesco
It identifies new trends, including "the direct killing and mass poisoning of schools students in Afghanistan and the mass abduction of pupils for recruitment as suicide bombers in Pakistan".
The report begins with a case study - describing the attack on a group of schoolgirls and their teachers in southern Afghanistan in 2008, in which assailants, opposed to the education of women, poured battery acid on the pupils' faces.
Report author, Brendan O'Malley, says attacks on staff and students are much more widespread than had been previously recognized.
"The sheer volume of attacks on education documented demonstrates that the demolition of schools and assassination of students and teachers is by no means limited to supporters of the Taliban fighting in the hills of Afghanistan."
Attacks intensified dramatically in Pakistan, India, Thailand and Afghanistan, says the report.
And it identifies several different strands behind the increase in attacks on education.
Attacks on schools can be used by rebels as way of attacking the state - such as Maoist insurgents in India.
They can also have specific goals - such as in Afghanistan - where attacks oppose the education of women.
Schools and teachers can be attacked as symbolic targets in ethnic, religious or ideological conflicts, such as assaults by Islamist separatists in Thailand, the report says.
And the intimidation of academics can be a way of silencing political opponents and restricting human rights campaigns.
Schools can also be destroyed in military action - with widespread damage caused to education by conflicts in Georgia, Pakistan and Gaza.
There are "grave concerns" in the report over the abuse of teacher trade unionists in Colombia - where 90 teachers were murdered between 2006 and 2008.
Fears of children being abducted and forced to join armed groups was another barrier to education.
Mr O'Malley says "it is hard for us to grasp what it is like for children and teachers to turn up to classes not knowing whether they are going to be blown up by a bomb or picked off by assassins".
And he says such attacks have a profound long-term impact.
"Once a pattern of attacks is established in any one area, there is a multiplier effect, spread by the fear of more to come. Parents will be afraid to send their children to school, teachers will be afraid to go to work," says Mr O'Malley.
"In the worst affected areas the cumulative impact will be years of education that will take years to regain if they can be at all.
"And there are the long-term effects on education systems, where graduates no longer want to go into teaching - because it is too dangerous. Or governments shelve investment or even put off repairing and reopening destroyed buildings, fearing the money will be wasted if attacks are repeated."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Link to full pdf report:
For more information on school terror attacks, please read:
||Michael Dorn & Chris Dorn, Innocent Targets: When Terrorism Comes to School, Published by Safe Havens International Inc., 2005.
"From day care centers to our nation's largest universities, all have the potential to be targeted by terrorists..."