Protect students from war and conflict!

Maundy Thursday's attack on the University of Garissa is an attack on higher education in the world. It is time for the countries of the world to adopt guidelines to specifically protect universities and students in times of unrest, war and conflict.

On Maundy Thursday, the extremist group al-Shabaab attacked a university in the city of Garissa in northeastern Kenya. 147 students were killed in the attack and at least 79 people were injured before the security forces regained control of the university.   

For those of us who are part of the international student movement, the last few days have been filled with grief. The heinous execution of the innocent students leaves no one indifferent and there are not enough words to condemn the act.   

The university, which is the only institution of higher education in the region, had about 850 students. In other words, a large proportion of the students who died in the attack. Today, the university is closed for the time being and students will be transferred to other universities. No one knows if and in that case when the university can reopen.

Attacks on schools and universities are not uncommon. As recently as December, 141 people, most of them children, died when another extremist group attacked a school in Pakistan. In November last year, al-Shabaab also attacked a bus in the city of Mandera, killing 28 people and many of them teachers. The well-known Islamist militia Boko Haram even has a stated goal of fighting Western education.  

The last week's attack in Kenya is the biggest attack on a university in a long time. The attack should be seen as an attack on higher education in the world. A free and secure academy is an important part of both democracy and welfare. All students should be able to feel safe when they study. The fact that 147 students are executed at a university is a great tragedy and a setback for democracy and an open society.

It should always be a priority to protect schools and universities in times of needo, war and conflict. In addition, if it is known that there is a pronounced threat to education, preparedness must be at the highest level. The international network GCPEA, Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, has developed guidelines for how educational institutions should be protected. The guidelines state, among other things, that the parties to a conflict must never jeopardize students' safety or education. The attack in Garissa shows once again that the states of the world must recognize and begin to implement the guidelines.

A special resolution on the guidelines was adopted at the European Student Union (ESU) General Assembly in 2015. SFS calls on Sweden to actively raise the guidelines in international contexts. Together with student movements throughout Europe, we say: Let it never happen again! 

Read more about the attack and the University of Garissa:   
Read mother about the GCPEA guidelines.

Read the ESU resolution on the guidelines.