According to new data from Save the Children, about 103 schools and other educational facilities were attacked in May, and there is growing concern that the safety of students may be threatened in the continuing turmoil after the military coup on February 1 .
Children’s rights organizations stated that improvised explosive devices and grenades were used in the vast majority of attacks.
“Save the Children will be shocked by these attacks, which not only put children’s lives at risk, but it is already a disastrous situation in the learning of children in Myanmar,” it said in a statement.
“Schools are protected learning places for children and must always be protected from attacks. Attacks on schools are serious violations of children and should not be deliberately targeted at schools.
On February 1, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Army, Min Aung Lai, seized power through a coup and arrested the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and senior members of the government. The coronavirus pandemic has deprived Myanmar children of months of study time.
Since then, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest, and the military has used force to suppress those who oppose its rule. The Political Prisoners Aid Association stated that at least 860 people were killed and nearly 5,000 were detained.
During the previous military rule, the generals closed the university, and since February 1, the armed forces have occupied dozens of schools and university campuses across the country.Thousands of teachers joined Civil disobedience movement Has been fired.
Although the school was set on fire or bombed, it is not clear who was behind the attack. The military accused the anti-coup movement, but resistance fighters told Myanmar’s independent media that they only targeted the military and would not harm civilians.
Save the Children tells Al Jazeera that it has no “reliable information” about those responsible.
UNICEF also noted that “the number of explosions in schools, educational facilities and offices has increased” in recent weeks.
The UN agency Myanmar Office stated in a Facebook statement on June 3: “Violence in or around schools is absolutely unacceptable. Schools and other educational facilities must be protected from conflict and unrest.” For places of learning Attacks by educational personnel and occupation of educational facilities are violations of children’s rights. “
Armed soldiers in the school
Earlier this month, children in public schools began to return to classrooms, but many young people were afraid to go.
“Due to the virus, I was unable to go to school for the entire year last year. I dare not go this year,” a 10-year-old girl from the central region of Magway told the organization. “I want to go to school, but I am afraid. Although the school gate is closed, there are soldiers inside. I am afraid of soldiers. I am worried that our school might explode while we are there.”
The Myanmar Teachers’ Federation told the Irrawaddy of Myanmar media that less than 1 million students have returned to school due to concerns about their safety.
Images from the first day of school posted on social media show armed soldiers appearing at school gates, on buses and even in classrooms, some of which apparently encourage young children to carry guns.
The mother of a primary school student told The Irrawaddy, “Even for us, we are worried about potential violence when we go out because the regime forces continue to take brutal actions against civilians.” She expressed concern about the existence of the army. “How can we send our children to a place where we can’t see what happened to them?”
Save the Children said that since March, security forces have occupied at least 60 schools and university campuses across the country.
“Armed soldiers have no place in schools or other places of study,” it said in a statement. “Under no circumstances should children be allowed to possess weapons of any kind. This extremely irresponsible behavior of armed personnel is unacceptable. It puts children at risk and violates international standards of safety education.”
Myanmar is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that all children have the right to receive safety education.
Save the Children stated that the international community, including the government and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, should condemn the attack and make safety and inclusive education a priority in responding to the crisis in Myanmar.
“Children are often the first to be affected by conflict and violence. The situation of children in Myanmar is now very urgent.” The organization told Al Jazeera in an email.