The protection of education in non-international armed conflict is a critical issue that requires attention and action from the international community. Non-international armed conflicts, also known as internal conflicts or civil wars, pose significant threats to the educational systems and the right to education for children and young people.
Under international humanitarian law (IHL), which includes the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, certain rules exist to safeguard education during armed conflicts. These rules are applicable to both international and non-international armed conflicts, although specific provisions might differ.
Here are some key principles and protections related to education in non-international armed conflict:
- The Right to Education: The right to education is protected under international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Parties to a conflict must respect and ensure the right to education for all individuals within their control, without discrimination.
- Avoidance of Attacks on Schools and Universities: Parties to a conflict must take all feasible measures to avoid targeting schools, universities, and other educational institutions. Such places should not be used for military purposes, and they should be given special protection.
- Protection of Students and Teachers: Students and teachers should be protected from attack, arbitrary arrest, detention, and other forms of violence. Parties to the conflict must refrain from actions that would prevent children from accessing education or endanger the safety of teachers.
- Continuity of Education: Parties to the conflict should take all possible measures to ensure the continuity of education during armed conflict. This may involve providing alternative learning spaces, ensuring the safe movement of students and teachers, and making arrangements for distance learning when necessary.
- Respect for Humanitarian Access: Humanitarian actors, including aid organizations and agencies, should be allowed to provide education-related assistance and support in conflict-affected areas. This includes the provision of educational materials, teacher training, psychosocial support, and other necessary resources.
- Rehabilitation and Reconstruction: After the conflict ends, efforts should be made to rehabilitate and reconstruct educational infrastructure and systems. This involves rebuilding damaged schools, training teachers, and providing necessary resources to ensure the resumption of education.
It is important to note that while these principles exist, their effective implementation and enforcement during non-international armed conflicts can be challenging. Lack of compliance by armed groups, limited resources, security concerns, and political obstacles often hinder the protection of education in these contexts. However, advocacy, awareness-raising, and international cooperation can contribute to improving the situation and promoting the right to education in non-international armed conflict settings.