Education International, the global federation of educators, strongly condemns the horrific attack on Lhubiriha secondary school in Mpondwe, Uganda and mourns in solidarity with the families and communities impacted by this devastating act of violence.
Education International further calls for the authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for this massacre and calls for all armed groups to respect schools as safe sanctuaries where students can learn and thrive.
Officials report that at least 41 people, mostly students, were killed on June 16, during a late-night raid on the Lhubiriha secondary school dormitory in Mpondwe, Uganda close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Victims were hacked shot and burned according to witnesses and news reports. Some students are still missing and believed to have been kidnapped. The attack has been attributed to the militant group Allied Democratic Forces.
“All children have the right to education in a safe environment free of violence and harassment,” stated David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International. He added, “The authorities must act to prevent such attacks on schools, to protect the lives of children and to ensure their right to education. We stand in solidarity with our members in Uganda, the Uganda National Teachers’ Union and the whole education community as they mourn with the victims and families.”
Beyond the direct risk of violence and exploitation faced by students and teachers, such attacks on schools have a devastating impact on the right to education of children, especially of girls.
Education International's Regional Director for Africa, Dennis Sinyolo called on “education authorities across the continent to ensure teaching and learning environments that are supportive, comfortable, safe, and secure for all. This is a fundamental prerequisite if we want to achieve quality education and protect children’s right to education.”
The Uganda National Teachers' Union (UNATU), member of Education International, has issued a message expressing its condolences and solidarity with all the people and communities affected. UNATU reiterated the need for safe schools and educational spaces where the values of non-violence, cooperation, tolerance, and respect are upheld.
Attacks in Uganda are rare, but in June 1998, 80 students were burned to death in their dormitories in a raid on Kichwamba technical institute near the same border. More than 100 students were abducted.
Education International reaffirms its commitment to advocating for "the right to education in safety and calls on the international community, governments, and all parties to conflicts to recognize and respect the right of all children and adults to a safe education in a peaceful learning environment, and demands they respect education institutions as safe sanctuaries."
As stated in the Schools Shall be Safe Sanctuaries Declaration, EI urges "teachers, their unions, non-governmental organisations and civil society to join solidarity campaigns in support of victims of attacks and threats of attack, as a means to put pressure on governments and the international community to take action to end impunity; protect students, teachers, academics and all other education personnel; and make education institutions safe sanctuaries in which all students have equal opportunities to fulfil their individual potential and become advocates for peace in the world.