Mexico protests over missing students highlight attacks on education

Children in conflicts




Protesters in Acapulco angry over students' disappearance

Growing anger in Mexico over the disappearance and presumed deaths of 43 trainee teachers has highlighted the levels of violence affecting the country's schools.

Several protests have been held in the past few days, since the horrific details of the students' abduction and apparent execution were revealed by the attorney general.

Jesus Murillo Karam said investigations had shown the 43 young men were kidnapped by police in the town of Iguala in September on the order of a local mayor – then were handed to a gang that killed them and burned their bodies. It has been reported that the mayor acted because of fears the students would demonstrate against a speech by his wife.

Amnesty International said they had been on their way by bus to stage a protest against reforms when they were stopped by police.

The victims were studying to become teachers at a college at rural Ayotzinapa in the south of the country. Some parents insist their sons are still alive – and demonstrators are furious at the government and its handling of the case.

Most students at the college are from low-income farming families. According to the newspaper El Pais, the institution is regarded by the authorities as a breeding ground of radical left-wing views. 

In its Education Under Attack 2014 report, the Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack said Mexico was one of 13 countries heavily or very heavily affected by violent attacks on education between 2009 and 2013.

The report said: “Attacks on teachers, academics and students took place in the context of high levels of general violence, including the abduction without trace of large numbers of children and adults.”

The coalition – which includes Education Above All, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and United Nations agencies UNICEF, UNESCO and UNHCR – said armed criminal gangs had fought over territory and control of the drug trade.

It added: “Teachers were among a long list of targets, reportedly because of their regular salary. Parents and children were attacked at schools and police were targeted while trying to protect educational establishments.”

The report concluded: “Teachers in more than 75 schools were threatened and more than 50 students, teachers, academics and education officials were killed or abudcted with their whereabouts unknown in 2009-2012.”

Education in emergencies is one of the 100-day themes of the #EducationCountdown. You can read more about the campaign here.

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