Education under attack
Around the world, attacks on children continue unabated, as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children. The protracted nature of conflicts today is affecting the futures of entire generations of children. Without access to education, a generation of children living in conflict will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their countries and economies, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families.
A child’s right to education cannot be safeguarded in conflict zones without education itself being protected. Education can be a life-saver. Out of school, children are easy targets of abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed forces and groups. School should provide a safe space where children can be protected from threats and crises. It is also a critical step to breaking the cycle of crisis and reduces the likelihood of future conflicts.
The day was established by a unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly, calling on UNESCO and UNICEF to raise awareness of the plight of millions of children living in countries affected by conflict. The resolution proclaiming the Day was presented by the State of Qatar and co-sponsored by 62 countries.
UNESCO and UNICEF will facilitate the annual observance of the Day in close collaboration with partners within and outside the UN system. Working on the frontlines in conflict-affected countries, the UN entities have long assisted Member States in strengthening their capacity to provide access to quality educational opportunities for all in times of crisis.
In proclaiming International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the UN is sending a clear message regarding the importance of safeguarding schools as places of protection and safety for students and educators and the need to keep education at the top of the public agenda. This remains a priority while governments continue to grapple with the COVID 19 pandemic that has led to school closures for more than 90% of the world’s student population.
To date, the Safe Schools Declaration has been endorsed by 104 States, with Estonia and Antigua and Barbuda as the most recent signatories. During Estonia’s current presidency of the Security Council, it convened the Protection of Civilians debate on 27 May. In his new annual report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, the UN Secretary-General highlights the suffering endured as a result of attacks on education. It calls for all states to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration.
EDUCATION is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world! Nelson Mandela
Despite progress in protecting education from attack, the extent and scope of attacks remains disturbing. GCPEA has documented a systematic pattern of attacks on education in 37 countries, and military use of schools and universities in 34 countries, over the last five years. Female students and teachers were directly targeted because of their gender, including through bombings of girls’ schools, abduction, rape, and harassment, in at least 21 countries, in the same period.