International Day to Protect Education from Attack 2021
The United Nations proclaimed the 9th of September each year as the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the day was first observed in 2020.
This day aims to send a clear message worldwide 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.
The International Day to Protect Education from Attack 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.
In conflict situations, schools are often destroyed or considered unsafe for children. Students get forced out of their places of learning and studies are put on halt, being of tender age, children become more vulnerable and at risk of violence, forced labour and permanent displacement.
Sadly, attacks on children continue daily, 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.
Education is under attack in Nigeria, most especially in the northern part of the country. Boko Haram and now banditry force children out of schools, risking a ‘lost generation.’ Since December 2020, criminal gangs have emulated Boko Haram’s tactic committing over 10 mass abductions, totalling more than 1,000 school children being kidnapped, to extort ransoms from parents. Many smaller attacks oftentimes go unreported.
These students get abducted in their classrooms and hotels and held in forests of the country’s remote northwest. Families have withheld their children from classes with the recent wave of school kidnappings.
Without access to education, a generation of children living in conflict situations will grow up without the skills they need to contribute positively to their societies or have the life they would desire, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families, there is no guarantee that they can go back to school when they arrive at a safer destination.
The facts will always remain for decades to come that education is an absolute necessity, not just for the children themselves but also for global peace and for the entire society.
The protection of education and school students should not only be the responsibility of government or educational institutions alone but a common duty of every individual member of the society.
Ideally, schools should be a place of safety, and no child should have to choose between their education and their life.
In conflict situations, a lot of children are forced to abandon their education as a survival skill, some get displaced by frequent violent attacks on their communities. Teachers are not left out as many have been forced to flee to other states.
It is the role of the government and the entire society to minimize, if not prevent all forms of attacks on schools, to protect the lives of children and their right to education, as a child’s right to education cannot be guaranteed in a conflict zone, the education itself needs to be protected.
Education can be a life-saver, out of school children are easy targets of abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed forces and groups. Schools should provide a safe space where children can be protected from threats and crises. It is also a critical step that can break the cycle of crisis, which can also decrease the recurrence of future conflicts.
The Day draws attention to the plight of more than 75 million 3-to-18-year-olds living in 35 crisis-affected countries and to their urgent need for educational support. It expresses concern over the effects of continued violence on these children and their ability to access education.
The General Assembly resolution affirms that governments have the primary responsibility to provide protection and ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels to all learners, especially those in vulnerable situations.
It further emphasizes the need to intensify efforts and increase funding to promote safe and protective school environments in humanitarian emergencies by taking all feasible measures to protect schools, learners and educational personnel from attack, refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education, and facilitate access to education in situations of armed conflict.