Photo: NRC

Attacks on schools deny access to education

NRC|Published 10. Jul 2018
On Wednesday 4th July, La Pacheca primary school in Colombia’s Catatumbo region was seriously damaged under an armed attack.

"This ruthless attack on what is meant to be a safe space for children to learn, grow and play is a grave violation of the rights of the child. Ending these attacks must be a top priority for the government," said Christian Visnes, country director of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Colombia.

During the first semester of the year, 44,829 students and 2,285 teachers were forced to suspend classes as a result of ongoing clashes between armed groups in Colombia. So far, this year, at least 80 educational facilities have had to temporarily suspend classes out of fear of violence in the Catatumbo region. Children who are out of school in conflict areas are more exposed to forced recruitment by armed groups, as well as becoming victims of child labour and abuse.

Since January (2018) a record number of 26 landmines and explosive remnants have been reported near to school classrooms. 3,459 children have been forced to suspend classes as a result of this grave violation.

"Education is key to protect children at risk, but also to achieve long-lasting peace in Colombia. If done right, higher levels of education can potentially lead to lower levels of conflict, and contribute to stability and economic progress," said Visnes. Furthermore, all armed groups should abide by their obligations under the international humanitarian law and not commit attacks against education.

NRC urges the Colombian government to endorse the 2015 Oslo Safe Schools Declaration, which commits to protecting students, teachers, and educational establishments from attack during times of armed conflict. 75 nations have signed the declaration so far.

"Education authorities in Colombia should announce their endorsement to the declaration as soon as possible. They must guarantee the needs and rights of children and youth who are one day meant to bring this country forward," urged Visnes.