MPs commit to take urgent action to protect education from attack

International Parliamentary Network for Education, September 9, 2021

On the Second UN International Day to Protect Education from Attack, September 9, 2021, members of the International Parliamentary Network for Education have pledged to redouble their efforts to protect education from attack.

To mark the UN-observed day, the International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd) with support from the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has set out the important role of parliamentarians in protecting students, teachers, lecturers and other educational staff as well as schools and educational facilities from violent attacks.

Attacks on the rise, despite school closures

Between 2015 and 2019, GCPEA identified more than 11,000 reports of attacks on education. These incidents covered every region of the world, harming more than 22,000 students and educators in at least 93 countries.  More than two-thirds of all attacks were on schools. Reports of attacks on education and the military use of schools and universities increased in 2020, even as Covid-19 forced the closure of education facilities around the world. GCPEA recorded over 2,400 reports of attacks on education and military use in 2020, a 33% increase from 2019.

Attacks on education included the destruction of educational infrastructure and military use of schools and universities, attacks on students and staff, and the recruitment of children into armed forces and groups, as well as targeted attacks on girls and women.

A briefing for parliamentarians

In a briefing, published today, MPs are encouraged to use a range of parliamentary mechanisms to ensure education is better protected from attack, including by endorsing and implementing the Safe Schools Declaration – an inter-governmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict.

The call to action is issued ahead of the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration, which will take place in Abuja and virtually on October 25 – 27.

The Abuja Conference – which will be hosted by Nigeria in collaboration with the African Union Commission, Argentina, Norway, Spain and GCPEA – presents a key opportunity to share good practices in keeping education safe during armed conflict, and moving from commitment to practice, the theme of the Conference. It will also provide an opportunity for states to announce and encourage new endorsements.

A call to action

Marking the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, MNA Mehnaz Akber Aziz, IPNEd’s Regional Representative for Asia and a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, said:

“Parliamentarians have taken many important steps towards keeping schools safe during conflict. But, with attacks occurring on a nearly daily basis in many countries around the world and persisting throughout the pandemic, millions of children and students living in conflict zones continue to have their right to education denied.

“I have seen firsthand the devastation such attacks cause and will be working with my colleagues in the National Assembly of Pakistan to encourage our government to join more than 110 countries who have so far endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration. I look forward to hearing from my colleagues around the world how they will also use the briefing to help safeguard the right to education”. 

Building political support to safeguard education

Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, IPNEd’s Executive Director, added:

“Ensuring that all children and students in conflict zones are able to access their right to education is a priority issue right across IPNEd’s membership, so I am delighted to partner with GCPEA on this critical briefing for parliamentarians.  

“Ahead of the Abuja Conference our call to action could not be more urgent following horrific surges of violence against children and young people across the world. In the past week alone, UNICEF reported that 100 students were abducted from a school in northwestern Nigeria, taking the number of school children abducted in Nigeria to over 1,100 since December 2020.

“That’s why today, on International Day to Protect Education from Attack, IPNEd’s member parliamentarians are setting out their commitment to redouble efforts to protect education from attack with a focus on supporting GCPEA’s work to achieve universal endorsement and effective implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration”.

Working together to protect the right to education

Welcoming GCPEA’s collaboration with IPNEd, Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA’s Executive Director commented:

“Members of parliament have a critical role to play to help safeguard education from attack. The publication of today’s briefing sets out a range of concrete measures parliamentarians can take to encourage their government to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and strengthen its implementation.

“With attacks on education and the military use of schools and universities increasing by a third in 2020, compared to 2019, these efforts by parliamentarians are more important than ever. Such attacks not only deny children and students their right to education, they frequently breach international humanitarian and human rights law and constitute war crimes. 

“We look forward to building on our partnership with the International Parliamentary Network for Education, ahead of the Safe Schools Conference and beyond, to support members of parliament in their critical advocacy to safeguard the right to education”.

Download the briefing here.

For more information, please contact:

Oliver Mawhinney – Advocacy Officer, IPNEd – oliver.mawhinney@ipned.org

Yatasha Govender – Advocacy and Policy Adviser, GCPEA – ygovender@protectingeducation.org