Education is a fundamental human right and an essential driver for peace and development, yet armed attacks targeting teachers, students, and education facilities are on the rise, with some 11,000 incidents reported between 2015 and 2019, the UN Secretary-General said.
António Guterres shared the startling figure in an address to mark the first observance of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.
“In addition to depriving millions of vulnerable learners from accessing education, this violence has serious adverse effects, including increased drop-out rates, prolonged educational disruption, child recruitment into armed groups, early pregnancy and sexual violence”, he stated, adding “These attacks simply must not continue.”
The President of the UN General Assembly outlined the magnitude of the problem, noting that most incidents involve direct attacks on schools, including arson, ground and airstrikes, raids, looting and use of explosive devices.
“We are witnessing the military occupation of schools which causes the campus to lose civilian status, thus facing threats of attack as a lawful military target”, said Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.
The UN Secretary-General underlined that governments must ensure that everyone can continue to learn, even during times of conflict.
While more than 100 countries have endorsed a Safe Schools Declaration, Mr. Guterres insisted that more action is needed.
“I urge all United Nations Member States to ensure the provision of education for all, even in times of conflict, and particularly for the most vulnerable, such as refugees and displaced persons”, he stated.
Furthermore, he said education must also be a force to prevent attacks. To that end, the UN has been using education as a tool to counter violent extremism.
“We are helping young people rise above radical messages to build more peaceful societies,” Mr. Guterres continued. “By giving them more autonomy and raising awareness of human rights, we are building the foundations of durable peace.”
Additionally, governments must also work to improve knowledge about attacks on education through enhanced monitoring, reporting, and investigation so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Original source: UN News