On September 10, 2015 Watchlist launched its new research report Vulnerable Students, Unsafe Schools: Attacks and Military Use of Schools in the Central African Republic at the United Nations. From April to May 2015, Watchlist gathered information on attacks on schools by parties to the conflict and military use of schools by armed groups and, on occasion, international peacekeeping forces. The report also provides policy recommendations to key stakeholders, including the Transitional Government of CAR, armed groups, humanitarian actors, and United Nations agencies, to strengthen children’s right to education.
“Vulnerable Students, Unsafe Schools” discusses how armed groups in CAR continue to impede children’s right to education by using schools for lodging and operational tasks, looting school facilities, threatening students and teachers, attacking areas without distinguishing schools, and instilling fear in local communities of further attacks. While international forces have played an important role in stabilizing CAR, they have on occasion also established temporary bases in schools, sometimes contributing to the damage of these buildings and delaying the reopening of schools. In recent months, communities have reported fewer of these incidents, possibly because of the UN’s efforts to implement a policy prohibiting the military use of schools by its peacekeeping troops.
The report was officially launched at a UN Press Conference, preceded by a special preview event for the Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, and followed by a breakfast event hosted by World Vision for the wider UN-NGO community in New York. It has prompted much-needed discussion on what needs to be done to respond to ongoing attacks and military use of schools in CAR. The report launch was covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, and Voice of America, among other news agencies. Watchlist will travel to Bangui in October to continue to share the report and its findings.