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The War on Education

To commemorate its founding 25 years ago, PS is republishing a selection of commentaries written since 1994. In the following commentary, Gordon Brown illuminated the savage – and global – war being waged against the fundamental right of all children to an education.

LONDON – The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram is beyond outrageous. Sadly, it is just the latest battle in a savage war being waged against the fundamental right of all children to an education. That war is global, as similarly horrifying incidents in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia attest.

Around the world, there have been 10,000 violent attacks on schools and universities in the past four years, according to a report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. The evidence is as ample as it is harrowing: 29 schoolboys killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in the Nigerian state of Yobe earlier this year; Somali schoolchildren forced to become soldiers; Muslim boys attacked by ethnic Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar; and schoolgirls in Afghanistan and Pakistan who have been firebombed, shot, or poisoned by the Taliban for daring to seek an education.

These are not isolated examples of children caught in the crossfire; this is what happens when classrooms become the targets of terrorists who see education as a threat. (Indeed, Boko Haram is translated as meaning that “false” or “Western” education is “forbidden.”) In at least 30 countries, there is a concerted pattern of attacks by armed groups, with Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria the worst affected.

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