Human Development

Zimbabwean govt intensifies attacks on education

7 min read

The greatest Zimbabwean export has always been its people. Zimbabweans are well known across the globe for their educational excellence and hard work. The world generally agrees that Mugabe’s government with the assistance of churches like Methodist, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian did well in ensuring that Zimbabwean citizens were educated and were competitive on the global stage.

The current trajectory that the country is on is leading to a disastrous human development record.  The Emmerson Mnangagwa administration has thus far not emphasized the need to leverage the education assets that Zimbabwe possesses. The administration has not shown the zeal towards education that Mugabe showed in 1980, after the liberation struggle for independence.

The Mnangagwa government has instead, unleashed terror towards learners and is on a mission to deny citizens the right to demonstrate as enshrined in the constitution and democratic values. Businesses and schools have remained closed and a full mobile network internet shutdown has been enforced by a government intent on abusing the rights of citizens without reproach.

Zimbabwean schools opened on the 9th of January 2019, but have not gained momentum due to the violence unleashed by the Mnangagwa-led armed forces. There have been many reports of soldiers and police violently attacking schools, including primary schools. Teargas has been thrown at learners in class and teachers have been beaten up after being suspected of being opposition suppoters.

We need to make sure that the learners and teachers in Zimbabwe are protected. Never should we hear of school environments being used as fighting grounds for political parties.

We are calling upon individuals and organizations to report these incidents so that we can keep the perpetrators accountable, you can send us all the information HERE.

As a supporter of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), we need the government of Zimbabwe to respect the sanctity of education environments. It should steer clear from violently influencing the operation of education activities.  The shutting down of the internet is an attack on education and should not happen anywhere in the world. It is a gross violation of human rights. Learners should be protected in their physical and virtual learning spaces.

GCPEA has developed the following goals and recommendations to help protect education from attack:


  1. To highlight the incidence and impact of attacks on education in conflict and insecurity among key actors and cultivate public support for safe education.
  2. To promote better systems for monitoring and reporting attacks on education.
  3. To promote effective programmes and policy to protect education from attack, including prevention and response.
  4. To encourage adherence to existing international law protecting education and the strengthening of international norms and standards as needed; and
  5. To fight impunity for attacks on education by promoting and supporting a range of accountability measures.


  1. Incidents and Impact of Attacks On Education

    • The international community, states, non-state groups, and other actors should acknowledge that conflict limits educational opportunities for millions of students worldwide, and that attacks on education are a common tactic in conflict that requires a concerted response at both the country and international levels. When educators, students, and education institutions are attacked and education institutions are used for military purposes, the damage to societies as well as individuals is severe and long-lasting.
  2. Monitoring and Reporting

    • States, local organizations, and relevant international agencies should rigorously monitor attacks against education and use that information to devise effective, coordinated responses, including preventive interventions, rapid response, and both legal and non-legal accountability measures for perpetrators.
    • UN human rights monitoring mechanisms, including the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the Human Rights Committee; the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, including the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, should give greater attention to monitoring and reporting on attacks on education.
    • Country task forces of the UN-led Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict should enhance the monitoring and reporting of attacks on schools, students, teachers and other persons related to the school (protected persons); threats of attacks against protected persons; and actions by parties to the conflict which impede children’s access to education, including the military use of schools, as requested by the Security Council in Resolution 1998 of July 2011.
  3. Programmatic Measures

    • Relevant ministries and education actors in countries where attacks on education occur should establish preventive measures, such as early warning systems, and a rapid response system for attacks. International organizations should offer support for these efforts.
    • Education service providers and education policy practitioners should be encouraged to develop best practices in protecting education from attack.
    • States and other relevant actors should ensure that educators and their families whom attacks force to flee are offered protection, that the impact on education systems of their departure is addressed, and that, when possible, they are able to return.
  4. Adherence To and Strengthening of International Law

    • All parties to an armed conflict should abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and not commit attacks against education. Redress should be provided where violations have occurred.
    • Government officials and leaders of non-state armed groups should take all necessary steps to prevent attacks on education, including making clear public statements that attacks on education are prohibited, issuing clear military orders to this effect, and refraining from using education institutions for military purposes.
    • States should ensure that their domestic law criminalizes all elements of attacks on education in line with international humanitarian and human rights law, and institute policies, formalized in military and law enforcement manuals, training, and rules of engagement, that prohibit or at least minimize the use of education buildings and sites for military or law enforcement purposes. Similarly, UN and regional peacekeepers should ensure that their rules of engagement in military manuals include such prohibitions.
    • All parties to peace agreements and mediators should ensure that issues concerning the right to education be included in any post-conflict agreement, and that international legal protections for education are explicitly articulated.
  5. Accountability

    • States should systematically investigate and prosecute in accordance with international standards those individuals responsible for ordering, taking part in, or bearing command responsibility for the range of violations of international human rights, humanitarian, and criminal law that constitute attacks on education.
    • Tribunals at the domestic, regional, and international levels should give specific consideration to violations that constitute attacks against education during relevant investigations and pursue and prosecute cases of sufficient gravity over which they have jurisdiction.
    • Informal and transitional justice mechanisms, such as commissions of inquiry and truth and reconciliation commissions, should, where relevant, specifically recognize and concretely address attacks on education.

What Is an Attack on Education?

The GCPEA has gone further to define what an attack on education looks like.

Students and educators in situations of armed conflict face violence every day. Schools and universities should be safe havens, where communities can work toward a better future. Instead, in many places, these institutions have become the targets of violent attacks for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, religious or criminal reasons.

Attacks on education are any intentional threat or use of force—carried out for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, religious, or criminal reasons—against students, educators, and education institutions.

Attacks on education may be perpetrated by:

  • State security forces, including armed forces, law enforcement, paramilitary, and militia forces acting on behalf of the state.
  • Non-state armed groups.

Attacks on education include attacks on:

  • Students of all ages.
  • Educators, including school teachers, academics, other education personnel, members of teacher unions, and education aid workers.
  • Education institutions: any site used for the purposes of education, including all levels of education and non-formal education facilities, and buildings dedicated to the work of ministries of education and other education administration.

Attacks on students and educators include:

  • Attacks directed at students and educators at education institutions, including abduction, recruitment into armed groups, forced labor, sexual violence, targeted killings, threats and harassment, and other violations.
  • Attacks while going to or coming from an education institution or elsewhere because of their status as students or educators.
  • Attacks on pro-education activists, including teacher unions or any teaching group, because of their activism.
  • Attacks on education personnel, such as administrators and maintenance workers, and education aid workers.

The occupation or use of education institutions by armed forces or other armed groups can lead to attacks on education institutions and can displace educators and students, denying students access to education.

Education Under Attack Report 2018

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