Today, we mark the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack to safeguard education in armed conflict.
Impact particularly on women and girls
In proclaiming the International Day, the General Assembly condemned attacks on education and the use of schools by military forces in contravention of international law. It recognised the grave impact of such attacks, particularly on women and girls, and called for action to prevent these attacks. It also called on states to do more to mobilise resources for humanitarian funding and education programmes.
Education International: States must protect the fundamental right to education
“Education is recognised as a fundamental right, no matter the circumstances, and states have a responsibility to protect schools and children’s right to learn,” Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards stressed.
While he acknowledged that the facts may vary across diverse regions, he insisted that the bottom line remains the same: increasingly in conflict countries and fragile states, teachers and students are putting their lives at risk simply by showing up to school because rebels, terrorists, armed forces, and repressive regimes consider schools, universities, students, and teachers to be legitimate targets.
Education International stresses the importance of schools as safe, comfortable, and positive environments for teaching and learning. Dangers to students and teachers from external threats pose occupational health and safety issues as shown by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other health and safety issues include poorly designed school buildings, exposure to asbestos or other dangerous substances, psycho-social dangers like work-related stress, violence, and harassment.
The Safe School Declaration
Over the past five years, this declaration has elevated recognition of the devastating impact of attacks on education and military use of schools and served as an effective tool for protecting students and educators from the harm that results from attacks.
Systematic pattern of attacks on education continues
Nigeria will host the Fourth International Conference on Safe Schools in 2021. This will be the first meeting of states on the declaration to be held in Africa, bringing together leaders from around the world to share good practice in protecting education from attack.