According to media reports yesterday, at least 28 students and a teacher were killed when a mortar hit the Batiha school in al-Wafidin camp, a community of about 25,000 displaced people, about twenty kilometres northeast of the capital. The reports said Syria’s official Sana news agency accused Syrian rebel forces of the attack, while rebel forces blamed Government forces.
“Education International condemns, in the strongest possible terms, yesterday’s bombing of a school near Damascus,” said the EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, ”Schools should be places of safety and security, in which students and teachers can avoid the violence which has gripped their communities”. Van Leeuwen went on to say that “Since the violence in Syria began, schools have been targeted for vandalism, looting and burning, which is reprehensible. Schools should be safe sanctuaries for students and for those who work in them.”
Since the protests, which began 21 months ago against the President Bashar al-Assad and his government, turned into a violent revolt in response to the government crackdown, Syria has been overwhelmed by a vicious circle of violence. The vast majority of the 20,000 or more people killed in the conflict have been civilians, while over 2.5 million Syrians need humanitarian assistance, and almost half a million have left the country to seek sanctuary in neighboring countries.
Education International is calling on member organisations to demand that their governments make representations to the Syrian Government and to the rebel forces to exclude schools and other educational institutions from such violent attacks, and to demand that the United Nations intervene effectively to bring the violence generally, and the humanitarian crisis to which it has given rise, to an immediate end.