October 30 2012
Schools should be among the safest locations for children, yet the sad reality is that Malala Yousufzai, who was shot in the head while riding her bus to school in Pakistan, was not facing a unique threat.
Children around the world often step bravely into the classroom where they are at risk of political violence.
Shortly after Malala’s school bus was attacked, fighters blew up a women’s high school in the Bamyan Province of Afghanistan. Central Asia Online reports 350 young girls were unable to attend school after the blast. And in May of this year, 1500 girls in the same province were displaced after their school was torched.
While girls have been the target of these attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in Thailand, both girls and boys schools are caught up in political violence. Bede Sheppard with Human Rights Watch reports:
…late in the evening of the last day of the [Pattani, Thailand] school term, a group of separatist insurgents had stormed the school, doused the classrooms with gasoline, and used the books from the library and mattresses from the kindergarten to fuel the flames.
Sheppard reports this is not the first such incident – in fact, the attack was the 327th arson attack on a government school January of 2004. The target, however, is not the children themselves:
Insurgents have attacked schools in the South because they view them as a symbol of state oppression and indoctrination of the local Malay Muslim population. But such attacks cause the most harm to the area's innocent children who lose not only a place to study and learn, but also one of the main sources of normalcy and routine in their lives.
There are few crimes as heinous as an attack on children, and when children are caught up in political violence, the whole society suffers.