16 February 2024 - Addis Ababa

Education in Africa: Violent attacks against schools rose 20% in 2023

Press Release


  • Save the Children analysis released during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa show dramatic rise in violence affecting schools, teachers and learners

  • The AU has dubbed 2024 the year of Education and Save the Children is calling on leaders to walk the talk and make schools safe for children to learn.

ADDIS ABABA, 16 February 2024 – The number of violent incidents affecting education in Africa Union countries rose by 20% in 2023 with 411 reports of violent incidents, according to new analysis by Save the Children released as the 37th African Union summit got underway.

These incidents include drone strikes on schools, the killing of primary teachers, and the use of tear gas to disperse teacher meetings, with the majority of incidents taking place in Nigeria (89) and Sudan (55). Other incidents included the killing of a school guard and dumping of his body, the raid of a primary school to use it as a training ground, and air-raids on schools sheltering displaced families.

For the analysis, Save the Children reviewed individual incidents of political violence affecting education reported by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Database (ACLED) in 2022 and 2023 across African Union member states and saw an alarming rise in attacks year-on-year.

The new analysis is being released during the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, where leaders are meeting to discuss issues of peace and security, regional integration, and development.

With education the "AU theme for 2024", and African leaders committed to building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa, Save the Children is urging leaders to walk the talk and make schools safe places for children.

Save the Children is also calling on countries in the AU who have not endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration to do so, and for those countries to fully implement the commitments in the Declaration, including developing a costed implementation plan.

The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict. So far, while globally 119 states have endorsed the declaration, currently only 37 out of the 55 members of the AU have made a similar commitment.

Ibrahim Zanna Sunoma, the Deputy Speaker at the National Children's Parliament in Nigeria, who is attending the Summit, called on all AU member states to use the summit to come up with concrete steps to implement the 2024 year of education. He said:

"Growing up in the deadly armed conflict in Northeast Nigeria, I've borne witness to the catastrophic toll that violent incidents exert on our education systems. These acts of violence not only ravage school buildings but also tear at the very fabric of our society, leaving a trail of shattered dreams and fractured futures in their wake. They instill fear and rob countless children of their fundamental right to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. The scars of these traumatic experiences run deep, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of we, the children.

"When crisis befalls us, the next thing that follows is schools shut down, destroyed, vandalized, and looted. Thousands of children, teachers, and other school personnel are killed, abducted, and maimed, and those that are left have a crippled definition of the future.

Mohamud Mohamed Hassan, Save the Children's Interim Director of the Pan Africa Office and AU Representative, said:

"Across Africa, children are being killed on the way to school, they are being terrorized at school, and their schools are being bombed. Even when a child is able to get to school, he or she is often in real danger. Many children attend in spite of the risks, but no child should have to face that choice. But how can they possibly be expected to learn?

"The consequences of attacks and violence in schools are immense – children are injured from direct attack, education is disrupted, parents fear for their children to go to school, and communities struggle.

"While the African Union (AU) has made significant efforts to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from attacks and promote safe education, things have started to go backwards. We have seen a major deterioration in school safety across Africa last year. The year 2024 needs to be the year of change for children."


  • Save the Children searched the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) database in 2022 and 2023 for countries in the African Union present in the database for reported incidents of battles, violence against civilians and explosions/remote violence and filtered for entries that mention any of the following terms and their plurals: Student, pupil, school, teacher, education, classroom, headteacher, headmaster, headmistress, educational, college, university, academic, class, educator, janitor, caretaker.
  • The data from ACLED suggests that incidents of political violence affecting education increased by 20% from 2022 to 2023 in Africa. There were 411 reports of violent incidents affecting schools, other learning institutions, pupils and teachers in 2023, compared to 341 in 2022. Most incidents in 2023 occurred in Nigeria (89) and Sudan (55).
  • This is is not the official GCPEA count of attacks on education for which the latest report covers 2021-2022.


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