Don’t use schools for war, says rights body

    By IANS,

    Berlin : All national armed forces and armed groups should reject using schools for military purposes during armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

    On Universal Children’s Day, Nov 20, Human Rights Watch released a video in six languages on the impact of military use of schools on children.

    In most countries with armed conflicts, national armed forces or armed groups have used schools for military purposes, with devastating consequences for children and their right to education, it said.

    The forces have converted schools into barracks, detention facilities, military training camps, weapons depots, and bases for military operations.

    Often, forces take over only part of a school, putting students attempting to continue their studies at grave risk.

    “Schools should be filled with students, not soldiers,” said Bede Sheppard of Human Rights Watch. “When armed forces take over schools, they put children and their education in the line of fire.”

    Children and teachers have been injured and killed, and schools destroyed or damaged, when forces have attacked schools because opposing forces were using them.

    Other consequences of the military use of schools include long-term school closures, declines in student attendance and enrollment, and psychosocial harm on students, teachers, and communities.

    Military use of schools has an especially negative effect on education for girls, who are at greater risk from the presence of armed troops.

    Between 2005 and 2012, armed forces or armed groups have used schools in at least 24 countries in conflicts across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America, Human Rights Watch said.