In recent years, many countries have been part of international and regional political drives to ensure that all children have access to and complete education in the countries that lag behind the most. Such efforts have had some success, with millions entering primary education, and more girls staying in school and pursuing secondary education, improving gender parity in more countries.
Attacks on education occur around the world, both inside and outside of situations of armed conflict. In many regions, armed groups intentionally target schools, teachers, and students. These attacks violate the rights of the child: in addition to putting children at risk of injury or death, they can thwart students' chance to get an education.
Attacks on schools, teachers, and students can cause children to drop out or go to school less often, force schools to cut their hours, and destroy school buildings and materials. In environments of violence and fear, the quality of children's education is severely diminished.
Human Rights Watch defines “attacks on education” as encompassing the full range of violations that place children at risk and deny them access to education. This includes attacks on school infrastructure and on teachers and students; the occupation of schools by the police and military; harassment and threats against teachers, parents, and students; and the recruitment of children from schools to become soldiers.
Human Rights Watch calls on states to endorse the Safe Schools Declarations, an international commitment to protect schools and universities from being attacked or used for military purposes in times of armed conflict.
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