Schools and education centers across the country have witnessed more than 140 violent attacks in three years from 2009-2012, resulting in 18 deaths, according to the biggest ever international study on educational institutions being attacked. Majority of the attacks, which involved the use of landmines and improvised explosive devices, have taken place in Maoist-affected states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, eventually resulting in a high drop-out rate.
The study stated that more than 120 school premises in these states have been taken over by security forces, leading to falling attendance and increased drop-out rates, mainly among girls. "This has affected the quality of education provided to most disadvantaged children," states the Education Under Attack report compiled by Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, an international body of UN agencies and human rights group. The study found over 9,600 attacks worldwide with a pattern of deliberate attacks in 30 countries where such violence was used as a war-tactic. The report was released in New York last week.
In India, the violent attacks include murder of teachers, staff and students as well as destruction of the building and furniture. "Four students, 13 teachers and one catering staff were killed from 2009-12," the report stated. "Over 73 teachers and 11 students were injured in the same period. Besides, seven teachers and two students were abducted. Four of these teachers were found dead."
"Maoists frequently cited use of school buildings by security forces as the reason for attacking schools. However, Human Rights Watch research found that Maoists had damaged numerous schools that were not occupied by security forces at the time of attack," stated the report, adding the number of attacks increased in the run up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
"Education facilities, students and staff are not just caught in the crossfire. Many individuals are deliberately burned, shot, threatened and abducted, and many institutions are deliberately attacked," said Diya Nijhowne, director, Global Coalition.
The shooting of Pakistani schoolgirl, Malala Yousafzai, by Taliban militants opposed to girls' education, in 2012 focused global attention on education-related attacks. However, the report reveals that Malala's was not an isolated case. Schools in Pakistan witnessed the maximum number of attacks at 838 incidents in three years; the most common assault being the blowing up of school buildings and attacks on girls.
Colombia was the most dangerous place for teachers, with 140 being murdered and thousands receiving death threats.
School children in Somalia were the most likely to be pressed into becoming soldiers.
The Middle East unrest didn't augur well for students, with Yemen and Sudan witnessing more attacks on students. In Syria, the University of Aleppo and Damascus too were attacked.