Education under Attack 2014

At a school in Lahore, Pakistan, people hold candles and pictures of Malala Yousafzai, a student shot by the Pakistani Taliban for speaking out against the militants’ destruction of schools and for promoting education for girls, 12 October 2012.
© 2012 REUTERS/Mohsin Raza
It was 9 October 2012. The school bus, a converted truck, had travelled only a few hundred yards from Khushal school in Mingora, northwest Pakistan, when a masked man stepped in front of the vehicle. An accomplice armed with a pistol climbed onto the tailgate at the rear, leaned over and asked which of the 20 schoolgirls huddled inside was Malala. When the driver stepped on the accelerator, the gunman opened fire, shooting Malala in the head.

Malala Yousafzai, 15, had become well known in the area – and a Pakistani Taliban target – after daring to speak out against the militants’ edict banning girls from attending classes and their bombing of schools. Critically wounded by a bullet that tore through her head and shoulder and lodged near her spine, she was rushed by helicopter to a military hospital in Peshawar, along with two wounded school friends. From there, she was taken to England, where she has made a remarkable recovery and now lives.

Hailed by international media and feted by human rights groups for her courage, Malala is today famous around the world. But she is just one of the many thousands of students, teachers, academics and other education personnel in dozens of countries targeted with violence.

This global study charts the scale and nature of attacks on education; highlights their impact on education – including on students, teachers and facilities; and documents the ways that governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies try to reduce the impact of such violence and prevent future attacks.

In doing so, it provides the most extensive documentation of attacks on education to date.

Following earlier studies that UNESCO published in 2007 and 2010, it not only examines attacks on schools, as previous research has done, but also considers military use of education facilities and more closely examines attacks on higher education.

The study’s four main aims are to: better inform international and national efforts to prevent schools, universities, students, teachers, academics and other education staff from being attacked; encourage the investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of attacks; share knowledge about effective responses; and help those who have been attacked to recover and rebuild their lives – as Malala is doing – by providing recommendations for action that the international community, governments and armed non-state groups should adopt and implement.

In July 2013, Malala addressed the UN General Assembly and stressed the importance of protecting education. ‘The terrorists thought that they would change my aims and stop my ambitions,’ she said, ‘but nothing changed in my life, except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.’

Education under Attack 2014 includes:

  • A summary providing an overview of the main points and key recommendations. 
  • A methodology section outlining the methods used in the research and the principal challenges faced.
  • A global overview providing a more detailed picture of the scale, nature, motives and impact of attacks on education and the variety of responses that are being, or could be, made.
  • Three thematic essays offering more depth about how schools and universities can best be protected.
  • Profiles of the 30 most seriously affected countries, providing an insight into the context in which attacks take place, a detailed record of reported attacks on education during 2009-2012 and an outline of attacks during the first nine months of 2013.
  • Endnotes providing citations for every piece of information used in the study.

Press Releases:

March 7, 2014: Attacks on Education Should Lead Security Council Debate

February 27, 2014: Attacking Education a War Tactic Globally, Study Shows

Watch the video:


Attacks on Education: [Arabic] [English] [French] [Spanish]

Military Use of Schools and Universities: [Arabic][English] [French] [Spanish]

Attacks on Higher Education: [Arabic][English] [French] [Spanish]

Key Facts

[Arabic] [English] [French] [Spanish]

Frequently Asked Questions about the Study

[Arabic] [English] [French] [Spanish]