In the short term, they cause human and material losses, damages, psychological distress, and the reduction of the teaching force. In the long term, they cause acute and lasting impacts on teaching and learning, profoundly undermining national education systems and economic and social development – and destroying the lives and future of millions of people.
Of course, women and girls are specifically and disproportionately affected by attacks on education.
Burkina Faso – attacks on education on the rise as violence increases
In the last couple of years, Burkina Faso has become one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world. The country is confronted with a deadly combination of factors: from the Central Sahel crisis to the violent conflict against and between non-state armed groups, particularly in the northern and eastern regions of the country, leading to unprecedented levels of fighting and insecurity.
This situation, compounded by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is having devastating consequences for education.
As armed violence escalated, attacks on education have significantly increased in the country, with parties to conflict intentionally burning, looting, or otherwise damaging schools and universities and high numbers of students and educators threatened, abducted, injured, or killed by targeted and indiscriminate attacks.
Burkina Faso has been rated by GCPEA as being heavily affected by attacks on education.
“Today, we note the closure of more than 4,000 schools, more than 800,000 children out of school and more than 20,000 teachers affected” reported Tahirou Traore, national Coordinator of CN-EPT/B, the Global Campaign for Education national education coalition in Burkina Faso.
Relentless attacks and threats against schools in the central Sahel are causing alarming levels of stress among children in conflict-affected areas, with 53% saying they don’t feel safe at school, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council.
Sadly, Burkina Faso is far from being the only country where education, educators and learners are targeted, but just one example to illustrate a wildly widespread issue: from Mali to Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Palestine - the countries with the highest incidences of attacks on education - or Afghanistan, where attacks on schools with explosive devices are frequent, and girls and female educators providing education to girls were directly targeted even before the Taliban’s takeover. Now, Afghan girls and adolescents are banned from school.
Transforming Education Summit – Protecting education is the first step
These days, all eyes are set on the Transforming Education Summit, convened by the UN Secretary-General and to be held in New York from September 16 to 19, 2022. Expectations are high. Stakes are too. It is the time when States and decision-makers need to go beyond promises and Protect Education in Emergencies Now!
This includes the endorsement and full, gender-responsive implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration, as well as the development and implementation of robust mechanisms for monitoring and timeously responding to attacks on schools and other education institutions, as well as to put in place and support a range of strategies to prevent violence and make schools safe and accessible.
None of this is possible without adequate funding. Education in emergencies remains chronically underfunded. Donors must increase their support to dedicated multilateral funds, such as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Education Cannot Wait (ECW).