Message from the Director
Ahead of the third year anniversary of the Pakistani Taliban’s shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in a violent reaction to her commitment to girls’ education, GCPEA convened a workshop in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 5-7, 2015, to examine progress in protecting schools, students, and teachers from such targeted attacks.
The Workshop on Promising Practices in Protecting Education from Attack
gathered over 75 education and protection stakeholders working for Ministries of Education, UN agencies, and local and international NGOs in more than 13 countries affected by attacks, to discuss measures for protecting education and to consider how these approaches could be adapted to different contexts.
A local NGO discussed how in the Nuba region of Sudan they have constructed schools under grass roofs to make them less visible to aerial bombers, and have dug out foxholes near schools for students to hide in during these attacks. Pakistani Ministry of Education representatives from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa described an SOS system they have launched where one click of a button sends SMS alerts to up to ten police stations to prevent or respond to attacks. An NGO in South Sudan explained how they led negotiations with armed groups to vacate schools they used as bases by engaging with community leaders, and opening non-confrontational channels of communication.
Teams of country delegations developed action plans on how they would adapt these measures, or others learned at the Workshop, to their own context and GCPEA will seek to support them in this process.
In addition to these national-level measures to safeguard education in conflict, a global movement is underway to take concrete action to prevent and respond to attacks. The Safe Schools Declaration
was opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools
on May 29, 2015. To date, 51 countries
have signed on to it, including many affected by attacks on education, such as Afghanistan, Kenya, and Nigeria.
As Malala’s father and UN Special Advisor on Global Education, Ziauddin Yousafzai, said at the Oslo Conference in May, attacks on and military use of schools cannot continue:
“We have to have the moral courage to accept that what has been done to our children in the last 10 years – what has been done to our schools – is unacceptable. It must be changed now. And we should have the moral courage to provide national endorsement to the Safe Schools Declaration.”
Initiatives at both the global and local levels give us hope that there may now be sufficient moral courage amongst a critical mass of actors to effect change and make a real difference in the lives of students, educators, and entire communities in conflict zones around the world.
Director, Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack