schools as battlegrounds

A report from Human Rights Watch on Schools as Battlegrounds is available.  From the post:
Why Schools, Teachers, and Students Are Attacked
Non-state armed groups target schools, teachers, and students for a variety of reasons. Rebel groups often see schools and teachers as symbols of the state. Indeed in rural areas, they may be the only structures and government employees in the vicinity, serving multiple purposes. In India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, for example, armed opposition groups have attacked schools used as polling places around elections.
Teachers and schools make high-visibility "soft" targets: they are more easily attacked than the government security forces, and attacks are likely to garner media attention to the assailants and their political agenda, and undermine confidence in government control. Opposition groups may also view schools and teachers as symbols of an oppressive educational system. A teacher in southern Thailand told Human Rights Watch how he became a target of both sides of the separatist conflict there. Muslim insurgents warned him that, as a Muslim, he should not be teaching at a government school. Later, local government paramilitary troops also threatened him for allegedly supporting the insurgents. Soon after, unidentified assailants shot him on his way home from daily prayers at his mosque, seriously wounding him.
Sometimes schools are attacked because armed groups are hostile to the content of the education being delivered or because of the students they educate. In some countries, schools have been targeted because their curriculum is perceived to be secular or "Western," others simply because the schools educate girls. Not all the violence is ideological: criminal elements may want to drive out competing sources of authority; some attacks are simply local disputes that may or may not have to do with education.
Schools and the routes students take to reach them can also be preyed upon by rebels, paramilitaries, and others seeking children for their armies, for indoctrination, or for coerced sex. During the prolonged civil war in Nepal, for example, Human Rights Watch documented how Maoist rebels used a variety of techniques for recruiting children, including the abduction of large groups of children, often from schools, for indoctrination.
It is important to note that nation-states that implement too coercive and authoritarian structure of public schooling may face this aggression, some of it in part due to suspicion of what the state mandates.  And increasing armed conflict helps no one.  Demanding we send kids to schools and then demanding we step up armed protection is increasing warfare.  Families and kids need less of that, another industry many nation-states are dependent on.

States taking a more voluntary and cooperative attitude to schools may fare better; certainly, states should see the schools as a humane social service for families and not as a way to push state-indoctrination or to insert the state into the family in an authoritarian way.  


This would also allow families maximum flexibility to protect their children and to make day-to-day calls in volatile situations.  It would decrease the dependency bred of a system that claims to take kids and do everything for them with no input.  It would actually strengthen families and increase social possibilities for communities.  This is the lesson homeschooling and educational activists in the US have learned here.  And, as I write, Egypt is facing huge demonstrations, and authoritarian regimes are under well-deserved pressure. 

The authoritarian 19th-century compulsory attendance strong arm tactic is not necessary for states to invest in public spaces for learning services for families and children.  This can be done in a humane and voluntary way; in fact, this approach is where we are going and it will ensure a good base for a nation-state that wants a strong democratic process.


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