On the International Day for the Protection of Education from Attack

Human Rights Forum: Conflict Undermines Access to Education

Saturday, September 9, 2023
On the International Day for the Protection of Education from Attack

On the occasion of the International Day for the Protection of Education from Attack, observed on September 9th, the Mwatana's Human Rights Forum held a webinar via Zoom. The webinar featured Raafat Al-Sabbah, the Secretary-General of the Arab Campaign for Education for All, Radhya Al-Mutawakel, the Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, and Ryan Al-Shaibani, the Media Officer and Editor at Mwatana.

The webinar, moderated by Khawla Al-Ruwaishan, began with Raafat Al-Sabbah discussing the state of education in the Arab world, emphasizing the similarities in the educational crises faced. He also delved into the concepts related to this day, such as the concept of emergencies and education during times of conflict. He provided statistics and figures specific to the educational crisis in the Arab world, particularly in Yemen.

Al-Sabbah stated, "International law explicitly recognizes the right to education as a human right." He explained that "emergencies affecting education refer to all situations where the normal conditions of life, care facilities, and educational facilities for children are destroyed in a short period of time, thus impeding the exercise of the right to education or depriving children of it, whether due to human-made or natural disasters."

Al-Sabbah highlighted that in Yemen, approximately 3,500 children were killed between 2015 and 2021, with 465 reported attacks on educational facilities. Additionally, 2,500 schools were damaged or used as shelters, and 171,000 teachers have not received their salaries.

He added that 3,600 children have been recruited for the armed conflict, and seven million children are at risk of losing access to education. There have been 30 incidents of attacks on higher education, underscoring how conflicts pose a significant barrier to the right to education and access to education.

Al-Sabbah emphasized, "Protecting the right to education in Yemen is of utmost importance given the challenging conditions the country is facing. We affirm that sustaining education and ensuring safe access for children and schools should serve as a safe haven amidst wars and conflicts."

On her part, Radhya Al-Mutawakel considered the protection of education as safeguarding the future and that war is against the future. She pointed out that Mwatana for Human Rights has documented 902 incidents of attacks on schools since the beginning of the conflict, most of which involve occupation, use, and incursion.

She explained that there have been 182 incidents of aerial attacks on schools and educational facilities by the Saudi/UAE-led coalition, in addition to 85 incidents of ground attacks by various parties to the conflict, with 44 of them attributed to the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group. This includes the use of drones, landmines, and explosive devices.

Radhya stated that the conflict has led to what appears to be a complete breakdown in the education system, along with other challenges like displacement, salary issues, and the problem of exploitation in education, such as summer camps that promote specific ideologies instead of educating children.

Ryan Al-Shaibani provided a retrospective look at the issues faced by the education sector before the conflict, highlighting its lack of sustainability. He offered a general overview of the challenges the education sector experienced prior to the conflict and emphasized that just as education contributes to building peace, its deterioration also contributes to its absence.