The United Nations has expressed shock and outrage after two attacks struck schools in Cameroon and Afghanistan over the weekend, killing dozens of innocent schoolchildren in both countries.
On Oct. 24, attackers wearing civilian clothing stormed into a bilingual school in Kumba, Cameroon, with guns and machetes. The attack left at least eight children dead while 12 others were wounded and taken to local hospitals, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.
On the same day, a deadly explosion occurred in an alleyway leading to a tutoring center in Kabul, Afghanistan, claiming the lives of 24 people and wounding another 57, the New York Times reported.
The attack occurred amid a climate of intensifying violence in the area close to the Kawsar e Danish centre, as well as in Afghanistan as a whole — where a third of civilian casualties due to armed conflict this year have been children, according to Save the Children. In 2018, nearly 50 people, most of whom were children, were also killed in an attack on an education center in the Afghan capital.
In a statement published on Sunday, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the attack in Cameroon was “another disturbing reminder of the heavy toll paid by civilians, including children, many of whom have been deprived of their right to education.”
“Attacks on education facilities are a grave violation of children’s rights,” the statement added.
In a tweet, the United Nations’ Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also expressed “deep revulsion” over the attack on the Kawsar center, calling it a “callous and senseless war crime” and stressing the need to double down on efforts to tackle violence across the country.
UNAMA shares #Afghanistan’s deep revulsion at last night’s killing & injuring of more than 60 civilians, many of them youngsters, in a deliberate targeted attack at a #Kabul college. A callous & senseless war crime. Our condolences are with the families of the killed & hurt. 1/2— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) October 25, 2020
Cameroon is one of the seven African countries that have reopened schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In English-speaking regions, such as the one where the recent attack occurred, some schools were opening for the first time in four years following tensions ignited by the heavy reliance on French in the bilingual country, VOA News reported.
The number of children enrolled in schools across the northwest and southwest parts of Cameroon had been steadily increasing before the attack — leading UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon Matthias N. Zaab to describe the attack as the “worst atrocity” since school resumed on Oct. 5.
While world leaders have committed to safeguarding education as part of the UN Global Goals, millions of children around the world still lack access to quality education — and conflict plays a big part in that.
Attacks like the ones that occurred in Afghanistan and Cameroon have a significant impact on access to education, making schools an unwelcoming and threatening environment for children around the world, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Henrite Fore highlighted.
She said: “Schools must be places of safety and learning, not death traps.”