A high school in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr was bombed and destroyed on March 4. After the strikes ended, teachers were discovered hiding in the basement even though there were no students in the school because it had been closed due to the war.
Attacks that target civilian facilities like schools without any discernible military purpose are a serious violation of international law and are considered war crimes. As long as they are not being used for combat, schools should be afforded special safeguards.
Given the current state of affairs, it is impossible to compile accurate data on the number of schools attacked in Ukraine; however, one widely reported number claims that 211 schools have been targeted. According to Save the Children, over 750 schools have been damaged or closed as a result of the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014.
A hole in a school wall from a missile, video of a kindergarten being blown to bits in Kharkiv, and photos of a kindergarten being destroyed in Chernihiv are just a few examples of the many examples of school attacks that can be found on Twitter, though all evidence online must be verified. According to Amnesty International’s investigation, cluster bombs were dropped from a 220mm Uragan rocket on the Sonechko nursery and kindergarten in the town of Okhtyrka in Sumy Oblast, where locals were seeking refuge from the fighting.
The Russian military continues to insist that they had no intention of attacking civilian areas, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
The conflict has created both a long-term problem for Ukraine’s educational system due to the bombardment and a short-term problem for the education of the country’s children and youth due to the immediate threat posed by the conflict. The number of people leaving Ukraine is now well over 1.7 million. The 2019 GEM Report on migration and displacement emphasised the importance of meeting the linguistic and psychosocial needs of these children as soon as possible, and integrating them into local schools as soon as possible. It will be important to help teachers who are moving to a new country adjust to their new surroundings and find employment.
This conflict will affect every child in the world. We should back the high school students shown in this video from the beginning of the conflict as they cross into neighbouring countries seeking refuge.
This indicator tracks the frequency with which students, staff, and institutions are attacked and was last reported in our 2012/2 GEM Report for the Sustainable Development Goals. Based on observations and reports from various actors on the ground, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), of which the GEM Report is a member, compiles data for this indicator.
In 2011, we focused international attention on the issue of education during times of conflict by publishing the GEM Report. As a result of widespread agreement with the Report’s conclusions, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning attacks on educational institutions as violations of international law.
A school shooting could happen to anyone. One can give no justification.