What Ministries Can Do to Protect Education from Attack and Schools from Military Use

Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack
Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack
Publication Year:
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Lays down guidelines for ministries to protect schools from military use primarily by analyzing the situation and monitoring attacks, securing schools, ensuring continuity of education, and supporting local communities.


This Menu of Actions is written in recognition that:

Every child has the right to education.

States, and by extension their ministries, are obligated in accordance with international law to uphold the right to education for all, including for children and young people living in crisis-affected contexts.1 Many States have a commitment to the right to education in their own national constitutions.2

Yet, the right to education is not realized for millions of children living in conflict-affected areas. For example, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has estimated that over 20 million primary school-age children are out of school in conflict-affected countries.3

Students, teachers and schools are directly targeted for attacks and violence. Thousands of school children, university students, teachers, academics, and education establishments were attacked during 2009-2013 in at least 70 countries with a significant pattern of attacks occurring in 30 countries.4 In six of these countries, more than 1,000 institutions or individuals were affected.5 The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has documented deliberate attacks including “bombing or burning of schools or universities” and the “killing, injuring, kidnapping, or illegally arresting, detaining or torturing students, teachers and academics”6 in conflicts around the world. Perpetrators of such attacks on education have included armed forces, police forces, intelligence services, criminal groups, violent mobs, paramilitaries, and militias acting on behalf of the state as well armed non-State groups.

Schools are used by armed parties in the majority of conflicts around the world. GCPEA has documented that in the last decade, schools and universities have been used for military purposes in 26 countries—the majority of states in which there have been armed conflicts—between 2005-2015.7 Schools and universities were used by parties to armed conflict (i.e. state forces, non-state armed groups, and international forces) as: bases; barracks; torture centers; and sources of shelter, water, and latrines (among other military purposes). They were also used to store weapons, to house detainees, and to recruit child soldiers.8

The negative impacts of attacks on education and use of schools and universities by parties to armed conflict are political, economic, and social, in both the immediate and long-term. The moment parties to armed conflict enter an education institution it can become a target for enemy attacks and an unsafe place for students and teachers by putting them at risk of physical violence, sexual harassment, forced labor, recruitment, accidental or misdirected firing, injury, and even death.9 Attacks on schools, teachers, and students can cause psychological distress or trauma, disrupt learning, destroy facilities and learning materials, reduce the teaching force, and cause injury and death.

What is the purpose of the Menu of Actions? This Menu of Actions is intended as a resource to empower personnel of ministries responsible for education (hereafter ‘Ministries’ or ‘Ministry’) to better prevent attacks on education or protect schools from military use, mitigate the impact of attacks when they do occur, and respond to attacks.

What is the source of information for the Menu of Actions? The actions are drawn primarily from publications by GCPEA and its member organizations. Although the focus of the paper is on schools, many of the recommendations may be considered for universities or other educational institutions (e.g. vocational training centers).

How is it organized? The suggested actions for Ministries to protect education from attack consists of seven components:10

  1. Analyze the situation and monitor the attacks
  2. Secure the schools
  3. Ensure education continuity
  4. Support the communities
  5. Be conflict sensitive
  6. Systematize the protection of education
  7. Advocate for support, including for state endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration11 and implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict12 (See Annex 1)

How should the Menu of Actions be used? Users are encouraged to:

  1. Select the actions that are relevant to the situation
  2. Adapt them to the country context
  3. Take action at national, provincial, district, and school levels
  4. Add any actions found to be useful from the local experience

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