Myanmar saw 103 schools and other education facilities attacked and often damaged by explosives in May this year alone, new data from Save the Children reveals, as armed forces continue to occupy schools and university campuses across the country.
Explosive devices such as IEDs and hand grenades were reportedly used in the vast majority of incidents where bomb blasts occurred in and around schools, posing a serious risk to children and teachers. The blasts reportedly killed and injured several people and severely damaged education facilities across the country.
The shocking figures come as deeply disturbing images emerged on social media this week of armed soldiers in class rooms, apparently encouraging young children to hold guns. Armed forces have also occupied at least 60 schools, and university campuses across the country since March.
These attacks cause yet more disruption to education in Myanmar, where more than 12 million children have already lost more than a year of education as a result of COVID-19-related school closures. Over two million of these children were already out of school before the pandemic.
Following the military coup on 1 February, children’s education has been marred by political strife and conflict, Save the Children said, with almost daily attacks on schools and widespread teacher lay-offs. Local media reports have suggested that only one in four children returned to school since they officially re-opened on 1 June.
One nine-year-old boy from Magway, a region in central Myanmar, said:
"Our school didn't open this year. When I see other children going to school, I want to go too. But I’m afraid because I heard guns and bomb blasts at my school. I don't like bomb blasts and guns shooting at school, because [I’m scared that] the school will be on fire and students will die. If there were no more soldiers and bomb blasts at school, I want to go back."
A 10-year-old girl, also from Magway, said:
“I wasn't able to go to school for the whole of last year because of the virus. And this year I dare not go. I want to go to school, but I’m scared. Although the school gates are closed, there are soldiers inside, and I’m afraid of the soldiers. I’m afraid that there might be a bomb blast at our school while we are there."
Save the Children said:
“Save the Children is appalled by these attacks, which not only put the lives of children in danger, but also further compromise what is already a disastrous situation when it comes to children’s learning in Myanmar. Schools are protected places of learning for children that must be free from attacks at all times. Attacks on schools constitute a grave violation against children, and no school should be deliberately targeted.
“We are also deeply concerned by the images that have emerged of armed soldiers in classrooms. Armed soldiers have no place in schools or other learning spaces. Under no circumstances should children be made to hold weaponry of any kind. This highly irresponsible behavior by armed personnel is unacceptable, it puts children at risk and violates international standards for safe education.
“Save the Children urges all parties involved to put the best interests of children first. All children have the right to a safe education – a right that is safeguarded by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), both of which apply to Myanmar.
“Learning spaces must be made safe again for children and appropriate measures to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 must be implemented. Save the Children calls for everyone in Myanmar who has an interest in children’s wellbeing to step up and make their safety and learning a priority.”
Save the Children and its partners are investing in safe, quality and inclusive learning opportunities for children in Myanmar across a range of options. It is also providing mental health support for children affected by the crisis.
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Improvised Explosive Devices