Global surge in attacks on education: 6,000 incidents in two years

GCPEA report reveals escalating violence against schools and universities amid global conflicts.


The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has reported a disturbing increase in violence against educational institutions worldwide. According to their latest report, “Education Under Attack 2024,” approximately 6,000 attacks on education occurred in 2022 and 2023, marking a nearly 20% increase compared to the previous two years. These incidents have resulted in over 10,000 students, teachers, and academics being harmed, injured, or killed in armed conflicts across the globe.

GCPEA researchers identified the highest numbers of attacks in Palestine, Ukraine, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In these countries, hundreds of schools were threatened, looted, burned, or targeted with explosive devices and airstrikes. The report highlights that attacks on education rose significantly in Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine, while there were downward trends in the Central African Republic, Libya, Mali, and Mozambique.

Lisa Chung Bender, GCPEA executive director, emphasized the long-term consequences of these attacks. “In places like Gaza, in addition to the horrific loss of life, education itself is under attack. School and university systems have been shut down, and in some cases completely destroyed. This will have long-term consequences on social and economic recovery, as the very infrastructure needed for peace and stability have been targeted.”

In Palestine alone, over 475 attacks on schools were recorded in 2023. The escalation of hostilities following the October 7 attack by Hamas fighters into Israel and the subsequent Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip contributed to this surge. By April 2024, all universities and over 80% of schools in Gaza had been damaged or destroyed, according to the Occupied Palestinian Territory Education Cluster.

Explosive weapons played a significant role in about one-third of all reported attacks on education globally in 2022 and 2023. These attacks had devastating effects, causing countless deaths and injuries among students and educators and damaging hundreds of schools and universities. One notable incident involved an attack on a women’s dormitory at El Geneina University in West Darfur, Sudan, which left a woman blind in one eye in June 2023.

The report details various forms of violence against education, including armed forces and non-state armed groups bombing and burning schools and universities, and killing, injuring, raping, abducting, and arbitrarily arresting students and educators. In some cases, girls’ schools and female students were specifically targeted to prevent them from participating in education. Armed groups also occupied schools and universities for military purposes, increasing the risk of attacks by opposing forces.

Nigeria saw continued abductions of students and teachers, although the rate of such attacks declined compared to previous years. In Palestine, Cameroon, and Iraq, large numbers of students and educators were threatened, abducted, injured, or killed during 2022 and 2023. Additionally, parties to armed conflicts targeted schools to recruit children in countries like DRC, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

GCPEA noted a significant increase in the military use of schools and universities in 2022 and 2023, with over 1,000 reports of occupied educational institutions across 30 countries. This represented a substantial rise compared to the 570 cases reported in the “Education Under Attack 2022” report. Afghanistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and Sudan were among the countries with notable increases in military use of schools.

University buildings, students, and academics also faced severe threats, with over 360 reported incidents in the past two years. About 760 university students and personnel were injured, abducted, or killed, while over 1,700 were detained or arrested.

The report also explores the preliminary connections between climate change and attacks on education. In regions like Burkina Faso and Mali, where desertification, land degradation, and conflict intersect, armed groups targeted school cafeterias to loot food stores. In the Philippines, intensified typhoons linked to climate change have affected the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, where schools used as shelters during emergencies were attacked by armed groups.

As of May 2024, 120 countries had endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect education in armed conflict. By signing the Declaration, countries commit to upholding international humanitarian and human rights law and using the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict. Despite these efforts, attacks on education continue to rise.

“On average, eight attacks on education were recorded daily over the past two years, meaning a startling number of students were unable to follow their dreams of learning, or develop the skills that an education promises,” said Jerome Marston, GCPEA senior researcher. “Schools should be safe havens, not targets, which is why all governments should endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.”


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Alexandra Jacobo is a dedicated progressive writer, activist, and mother with a deep-rooted passion for social justice and political engagement. Her journey into political activism began in 2011 at Zuccotti Park, where she supported the Occupy movement by distributing blankets to occupiers, marking the start of her earnest commitment to progressive causes. Driven by a desire to educate and inspire, Alexandra focuses her writing on a range of progressive issues, aiming to foster positive change both domestically and internationally. Her work is characterized by a strong commitment to community empowerment and a belief in the power of informed public action. As a mother, Alexandra brings a unique and personal perspective to her activism, understanding the importance of shaping a better world for future generations. Her writing not only highlights the challenges we face but also champions the potential for collective action to create a more equitable and sustainable world.