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Addis Ababa, 09 September 2022 - The African Union Coordination Group on Children in Situations of Conflict joins Africans and the world to commemorate the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.

The African Union recently adopted two significant policies for the protection and enhancement of the welfare of children in situations of conflict in Africa. These are the Policy on the Integration of Child Protection in the African Peace and Security Architecture and the Policy on Child Protection in African Union Peace Support Operations. They aim to protect children from the violations of their rights in situations of conflict, including the right to education. The policies are an addition to the instruments and key decisions adopted by the African Union to protect the rights and welfare of children in situations of conflict including the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Schools should be protected spaces where children are safe, even during armed conflicts. However, continued attacks on schools significantly hamper children’s rights, including the right to education. These attacks not only put children’s lives at risk but also disrupt their learning with lifelong consequences on their education, future economic opportunities and overall well-being. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), an inter-agency coalition that addresses the problem of targeted attacks on education during armed conflict, identified over 5,000 reported attacks on education and the military use of schools, harming or killing at least 9,000 students and educators in 2020 and 2021. The GCPEA noted that the highest attacks on education occurred in Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo; 620 and 600 threatened or actual attacks on education, respectively. Nigeria is among the three countries with the highest reported numbers of people harmed because of attacks on education; 1,850 students and educators were injured, abducted, or killed, and more than five were arrested or detained. In the last five years, the UNICEF 25 Years of Children and Armed Conflict Report (June 2022) also shows that the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria were the most affected countries, accounting for 52% of all attacks against schools and education.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 9 September as the International Day to Protect Education from Attack following a unanimous decision in 2019. Today, we reflect on efforts required to safeguard education despite armed conflict, particularly on the need to effectively ensure the continuity of education, guarantee the protection of students, schools and educational personnel from attacks, strengthen accountability against perpetrators and provide justice to affected populations as per International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.  

Education is critical in driving the aspirations of Agenda 2063 for a peaceful and secure Africa and for “An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of the African People, particularly its Women and Youth and caring for children.” Protecting education from attack demands more significant political and legal investments. Important milestones have reflected the African continent's commitment to safeguarding education, including translating the Safe Schools Declaration’s principles into binding African Union Peace and Security Council decisions.

While we commend measures taken by many African Union Member States to revise their policies and restrict the use of schools and universities for military purposes, we call upon them to increase their efforts in protecting schools, teachers and students from attack including by endorsing, domesticating and implementing the Safe Schools Declaration and bring perpetrators to account.

 

For further information, please contact:

Dr Isabela Warioba, Senior Policy Officer, Protection of Children in Situations of Conflict, | E-mail: WariobaI@africa-union.org | Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security | African Union Commission | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

For media inquiries information, please contact:

Mr Paschal Chem-Langhee, Communication Officer | Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security | African Union Commission | E-mail: Chem-Langhee@africa-union.org | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Information and Communication Directorate, African Union Commission I E-mail: DIC@africa-union.org
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Posted by Limi Mohammed

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