Burkina Faso is 19th African Union member to endorse Safe Schools Declaration

(New York, September 12, 2017) – Burkina Faso has become the 69th country to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, a move which is warmly welcomed by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA).

By endorsing the Declaration, which is an intergovernmental commitment to protect schools, universities, students, and teachers from attack in armed conflict, the government of Burkina Faso has joined 18 of its fellow African Union member states.

“The government of Burkina Faso has faced significant challenges in recent months, particularly in the northern Sahel region,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director. “Since the beginning of this year, according to UNICEF, armed non-state actors have threatened and attacked schools, the education of thousands of children has been interrupted, and at least one teacher has been killed.”

The Safe Schools Declaration contains a range of commitments which represent concrete action that governments can take to protect education during war-time. Central to implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration is the commitment to bring the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict into relevant domestic policy and operational frameworks.

Armed forces and armed groups in conflict zones regularly use schools and universities for military purposes, such as bases, barracks, firing positions, armories, and detention centers. This can turn schools and universities into targets for attack, put students and teachers at risk, and deprive children of access to education.

GCPEA research has shown that armed forces and armed groups have used schools and universities for military purposes in at least 29 countries experiencing armed conflict and insecurity around the world since 2013. The research also shows that a series of attacks on schools has also occurred in at least 27 countries experiencing armed conflict and insecurity in the same period.

The African Union Peace and Security Council has repeatedly called on its members to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration, most recently in June of this year.

“In endorsing the Declaration, Burkina Faso now has a framework within which it can act to improve the protection of its schools, universities, teachers, and students,” Nijhowne said. “Implementing the commitments contained in the Declaration will assist the government as it endeavors to uphold the right to education and secure a better future for its children and youth.”