Skip to main content
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
News article9 September 2022Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)2 min read

Statement by Commissioner Lenarčič on the International Day to Protect Education from Attack

view of children in a class room
© European Union, 2021 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont)

On the occasion of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič issued the following statement:

“On the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the EU reaffirms its strong and unwavering commitment to promote and protect the right of every child to grow in a safe environment, to have access to quality education, and build better and more peaceful future.

The EU strongly condemns targeted attacks against education and the military use of education facilities, which may constitute violations of the International Humanitarian Law. The EU remains committed to continue to promote the safety of education, including through further engagement on the Safe Schools Declaration.

In the last two years, more than 9,000 students and teachers were injured or killed in attacks on education during armed conflict, according to the Education under Attack 2022 report published by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). More than 5,000 separate attacks on education facilities, students, and educators, or incidents of military use, took place in 2020 and 2021, which constitutes a significant increase over the previous two years. Sadly, the attacks intensified in 2022.

We are concerned that the incidence of such attacks is on the rise in Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, and Nigeria, to mention the few.

The situation in Ukraine remains particularly worrying with over 286 educational institutions completely destroyed, and 2 300 damaged, since the start of the Russian aggression in February 2022. According to the revised UN flash appeal of August 2022, 5 million children and teachers in Ukraine are heavily impacted by war.

The situation in Afghanistan remains also of concern. Since taking power in August 2021, the Taliban has ruined hopes of many girls to access secondary education, which is likely to have devastating consequences for a generation of Afghan girls. In the northern part of Nigeria, school children are constantly at the risk of death or abduction by armed groups. The situation is particularly difficult for girls, who have been deliberately targeted by non-state armed groups and often face increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence. It is therefore important to emphasise that all girls should have the right to access education safely.

Attacks on education does not only result in physical injuries, but they may also lead to trauma and negatively affect children’s psychosocial well-being. Beyond destruction of facilities, attacks on education result in long-term suspension of learning and teaching: they increase the risk of school dropouts, lead to forced labour and recruitment by armed groups and forces. Obstructing access to education and school closures can have profound consequences for whole generations of children, but also bring about significant protection risks such sexual and gender-based violence or early and forced marriage.

Responding to and preventing attacks on schools, supporting inclusive aspects of education and protecting students and teachers requires a coordinated and inter-sectoral approach, integrating education, protection, mental health and psychosocial support.

Through EU-funded projects in Education in Emergencies, we help reduce and mitigate the risks posed by armed conflict.

The EU stays at the forefront of the international mobilisation for education in emergencies, dedicating 10% of its humanitarian aid budget to support access, quality and protection of education. In 2021 alone, the EU invested EUR 146 million to address access to safe and quality education for over 2.3 million children in humanitarian crises, 50% of them girls.”