Ziauddin Yousafzai Speaks Out Against Military Use Of Schools At Oslo Conference

Malala Fund Blog, June 1, 2015

By Louis Belanger, communications director, Malala Fund

Schools are supposed to be a safe place for children to learn, to play with classmates and seek knowledge. In the last few years, the world has witnessed many education institutions coming under attack by armed groups and terrorists. From a local high school in Chibok, Nigeria, to a public school in Peshawar, Pakistan to more recently at the Garissa University in eastern Kenya: schools are under attack.

In an attempt to reverse this dangerous trend, representatives from some 60 countries gathered in Oslo last week for the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools to work together to build consensus for safer schools and universities in areas of armed conflict.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father, cofounder of the Malala Fund and UN Special Advisor for Education, was among those who attended and spoke at the conference. During his speech, he shared his personal story as a teacher in Pakistan, the Taliban’s affect on girls’ education, and the military use of his own school.

“We have to provide the same sanctity to our schools and educational institutions as we do to mosques, temples and churches,” he said in his address at the conference. “If these places of worship protect and carry on the legacy of our faith, I believe that schools protect and carry on the legacy of our consciousness and civilization.” 

It’s a clear and concerted global effort to ensure safe education for children and young people in countries affected by conflict. More than 28 million children are denied the chance to go to primary school because of armed conflict.


Led by the Government of Norway, the two-day conference agreed on clear guidelines for all parties to agree and respect in time of conflict. The conference will pursue its efforts in the coming weeks by calling on as many states as possible to endorse, the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. 

“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 – it is unacceptable. It must be changed now. And we should have the moral courage to provide a national endorsement to the Safe Schools Declaration. I hope that today we are unanimous,” said Ziauddin. 

Participants at the conference also included Ine Eriksen Søreide, Norway’s Minister of Defense and George Werner, Liberia’s Minister of Education.

Military and armed groups have attacked thousands of school pupils, students, teachers and educational institutions over the past five years. Attacks and the military use of educational institutions have taken place in no less than 70 countries.


Explore the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack’s interactive map to learn more about the military use of schools.