Protecting schools from attacks and military use is essential to ensuring access to education for all children in Africa, a United Nations child rights envoy said today, urging world leaders to use the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit as an opportunity to generate new commitments to ensure that conflict does not mean the end of learning for millions of children.
“Schools in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, have been looted, pillaged, damaged and destroyed during military operations […], putting the future of an entire generation at risk,” Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict told the African Union's Peace and Security Council during the body's third annual Open Session on children and armed conflict.
Attacks against schools and their military use have become a common aspect of today's conflicts, with long-term consequences, especially on fragile education systems. The Special Representative emphasized the heavy burden placed on communities and post-conflict societies to rebuild or repair schools and bring back skilled teachers.
“The African Union and its member States can and must make a difference by including measures to end and prevent attacks against schools in domestic legislation, including criminalization of these acts, and must hold perpetrators accountable,” she said.
She called on Member States to endorse the Safe School Declaration, developed in 2015 through an inter-governmental political process, and commit to implement the “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict” adopted in December 2014.
The Declaration has already been endorsed by 15 African countries.
In conclusion, Ms. Zerrougui recalled that the international community has firmly put the protection of schools on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentand urged Governments to take action to realize that collective commitment.
The World Humanitarian Summit will be held on 23-24 May in Istanbul, Turkey.