SDG 4: Quality Education
4.1.1 – Number or proportion of education facilities damaged or destroyed by explosive weapons
Attacks on schools are one of the six grave violations against children identified by the UN Security Council.
Faiqa was not in the vicinity of a school when she stepped on the landmine so no such facilities were damaged.
Between 2009-12, there was a string of attacks on schools using explosive weapons in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the north-west. However, these tended to be carried out with small, improvised explosive devices at night by Pakistani Taliban groups, rarely causing casualties. Daytime attacks involved grenades or mortars. However, there were no recorded incidents involving landmines.
Overall, in this period, there were 838 attacks on schools in Pakistan – more than any other country, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Hundreds of schools were left destroyed but the GCPEA noted that due to difficulties faced by journalists in the worst affected area, the “true total could be considerably higher”.
It is against international humanitarian law (IHL) to attack targets without discriminating between military and civilian targets. However, military (ab)use of an education institution can convert it into a legitimate military target, under IHL.
AOAV recorded four incidents of landmine explosions in or around schools between 2011-20; two in Somalia and two in Syria with a total of 14 casualties, with nine killed and five injured.
Throughout Syria, it’s estimated that around 40% of schools have been damaged and destroyed by the conflict. The UN verified 120 attacks on educational facilities over 2014 & 2015, and noted that the Ministry of Education had reported 889 schools partially or fully damaged by the end of 2014.
4.1.2 – Number or proportion of educators killed or injured by explosive weapons, disaggregated by gender
Faiqa was not in the vicinity of a school when she stepped on the landmine so no educators were killed or injured in this attack.
Further north in the province, in the city of Peshawar, two students stepped on landmines on their way to school. They believe that whoever laid the landmine was targeting students who walk the same route to class everyday. Whilst not harming educators specifically, it appears the targeting was of anyone heading towards their school, be it student or teacher.
“That fateful morning had begun like any other, except he [Salman] was running late for school, a fifteen minute walk away from his home. As usual, he strode hurriedly on the side of the main road to avoid incoming traffic, accompanied by his friend Adnan — always a few steps behind him. Some three minutes in, however, an explosion swept him off his feet. “At first, I thought someone fired at me. Then I saw that my arm and leg were bleeding, and my calf bone was protruding out [of my skin],” he recalled. Another ten minutes later, Adnan met a similar fate. He lost both his legs, and has since been confined to a wheelchair.”
– Excerpt from ‘Toying with Death’ by Sama Faruqi in Dawn
According to the Global Terrorism Database, there were 867 attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan from 2007 to 2015, resulting in 392 fatalities and 724 injuries. This data is not disaggregated by weapon type but highlights the precarity and justified cautiousness of families sending their children to school.
4.2.1 – Number or proportion of education facilities with service disruptions, including Internet
There were no reports of education facilities facing a disruption due to the landmine explosion in Wacha Khwara.
In response to acts of explosive violence, government security forces have used educational facilities as temporary barracks. This disrupts the educational service provided by the school. So even if the school has not been the direct victim of a landmine attack, the use of landmines and other explosive weapons in the surrounding area can disrupt children’s schooling.
4.2.2 – Number of schooling days lost
Faiqa was injured by the landmine during her school holidays. However, it’s unclear how many days of school she missed.
In 2014, Wazir Alam lost his leg from a landmine whilst out with his friends during a summer vacation. Aged 13, he would’ve started eighth grade the next day but instead he never returned to school. This means he missed five full years of secondary education.
4.2.3 – Number or proportion of children without access to schooling, disaggregated by gender and age
Faiqa’s access to schooling continued after her incident, however, her mother reported that she had lost her independence and felt “different, excluded from the other children”, meaning she often burst into tears. These feelings, combined with her disability will certainly mean her access to education is limited.
For context, there is already a huge geographic and gender disparity in education in Pakistan. “Boys from urban areas attend school for 10 years if they come from the country’s richest 20 percent; poor rural girls, on the other hand, receive an average of just one year of education.”
1 – Number, proportion or rate of students who drop out of schooling, disaggregated by gender
2 – Proportion of students achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and mathematics, disaggregated by gender
3 – Proportion of population in a given age group achieving at least a fixed level of proficiency in functional (a) literacy and (b) numeracy skills, disaggregated by gender
There is no information currently available on how the landmine explosion has impacted Faiqa’s proficiency level in reading or mathematics. Salman, who lost his leg in the same province, did intend to join the army but that is now not possible due to his injury. But his experiences with medical staff have encouraged him to study to be a doctor. In an indirect way, the landmine detonation in his teenage years has led him to pursue a more academic route.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, Pakistan ranks 153 out of 156 countries in the gender inequality index. This manifests itself strongly in education. World Bank figures showed that in 2017 only 46 percent of females aged 15 or over in Pakistan were literate, compared to 71 percent of men. A 2014 study found that the majority (53%) of girls (age 5-16) are out of school compared to 42 percent of boys. Whilst conservative and/or extremist cultural attitudes prevent millions of girls in Pakistan, it is also the level of conflict and insecurity, partly due to explosive weapons, that create inhospitable conditions for girls’ education.
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