Sixth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration

Sixth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration

By Luis Eduardo Perez Murcia, GCE Policy and Research Advisor

#SafeSchoolsDeclaration

Education has been and is continuously under attack in countries of both the global north and the global south. Although attacks to students, schools, teachers and more generally education communities are more frequent in the south, notably those living in protracted conflict and crisis, we must not forget that only thirty years ago, education was under attack in the very hearth of Europe. Muslim girls and boys saw their opportunities to attend school and university disrupted while they themselves and their families struggled to survive during the Balkan war[1].

While one is writing this blog, millions of children in countries of the global south, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Burkina Faso, and DRC, are afraid of going to school. This is not only because of the ongoing health pandemic, but because the surrounding areas of their schools are occupied by armed forces, subject to indiscriminate attacks or contaminated with explosives and landmines. Just the idea of walking around an area where one can lose limbs create a significant emotional impact for families affecting school attendance and increasing the likelihood of early drop out.

The Sixth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration, opened for endorsement on May 29, 2015, in Oslo and now endorsed by 108 countries (Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, GCPEA), is an opportunity to put ourselves on the shoes of those millions of children and youth whose opportunities to attend school and develop their academic potential are under attack by conflict, war, displacement, amongst other many emergencies. The scenes of children with no school facilities in Greece, Turkey and Lebanon, where 32 schools were closed in refugee camps after the first Coronavirus-induced lockdown last year[2], and the destruction of schools in Syria, Niger, Burkina Faso[3], and very recently in Palestine, where over 57 schools were damaged[4], are only few examples of the magnitude of the crisis and the urgent need of governments and the international community to protect students, schools, teachers, and education communities from attacks.

This demands from all of governments and the international community a very strong commitment to the people’s rights to education in all contexts, and especially in those where education is under attack.

The Global Campaign for Education is taking the Sixth Anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration as an opportunity to call on governments, the international community, and the leadership of G20 and United Nations to develop a comprehensive framework to protect the right to education for people in emergency situations, including conflict and post-conflict scenarios. Today is an invitation for countries to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and to develop comprehensive plans to protect our education communities from attacks.

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[1] Sabic-El-Rayess, Amra., and Sullivan, Laura. 2020. The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival. Bloomsbury, USA.

[2] You, Danzhen., Lindt, Naomi., Allen, Rose., Hansen, Claus., Beise., Jan and Blume, Saskia. Migrant and displaced children in the age of COVID-19: How the pandemic is impacting them and what can we do to help. Vol. X, Number 2, April–June 2020. Migration policy Practice. Page. 36

[3] Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (2020). Education under attack 2020.

[4] UNICEF (2021). State of Palestine ‘Escalation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel’ Report No. 3. 24 May 2021.