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Ukraine’s schools devastated by war – report

4 December 20230 comments

Nearly 4,000 schools and educational facilities throughout Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed since Russia’s invasion, putting the future of Ukraine’s children at risk, a new report claims.

A new report from NGO Human Rights Watch documents attacks on education in Ukraine since the start of the war, in February, 2022.

Most damage to schools and other educational facilities resulted from aerial attacks, artillery shelling, rocket strikes, or use of cluster munitions. Russian forces frequently looted and pillaged schools they occupied, a war crime, the report says.

It says education has been under attack in Ukraine since Russia first invaded in 2014. But Russia’s full-scale invasion led to further attacks on and military use of schools.

“Many students whose schools were damaged or destroyed had to continue their studies elsewhere, including through remote learning. But Russian forces’ attacks on power infrastructure and consequent electricity and internet outages have also frequently impeded students’ ability to access remote education resources,” the report says.

The damage and destruction of schools documented by HRW typically occurred when Russian forces captured cities and towns and occupied schools during the early weeks of the fighting in 2022.

“Russian forces pillaged schools, looting computers, televisions, and other school equipment, as well as heating systems. Upon withdrawal, Russian forces left behind burned-out and ransacked classrooms with hate graffiti painted on walls,” the report says.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented how Russian forces attacked schools and kindergartens, including schools for children with disabilities. Russian forces also tortured, raped, and otherwise ill-treated prisoners-of-war and detained civilians in schools, it says.

Ukraine, unlike Russia, has taken key steps to protect education from attack. In 2019, Ukraine endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political commitment that aims to protect education from the worst effects of armed conflict, HRW says.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Education Ministry reported that over 95 percent of eligible students were enrolled in schools as of January, a significant achievement during wartime.

But Ukrainian forces have also placed soldiers in schools and set up checkpoints near school buildings. Using schools as living quarters for troops, storing ammunition, or parking or deploying military vehicles on school grounds makes attacks on schools more likely.

Military forces are obligated under the laws of war to do everything feasible to protect schools under their control from the effects of attacks.

Read the full report: “Tanks on the Playground”: Attacks on Schools and Military Use of Schools in Ukraine | HRW