End of May 2020, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 9 September as the International Day to Protect Education from Attack. The resolution ‘reaffirms the right to education for all and the importance of ensuring safe enabling learning environments in humanitarian emergencies, as well as quality education at all levels, including for girls, including technical and vocational training opportunities, where possible, including through adequate funding and infrastructural investments, for the well-being of all, in this regard recognizes that access to quality education in humanitarian emergencies can contribute to long-term development goals and reiterates the need to protect and respect educational facilities in accordance with international humanitarian law, strongly condemns all attacks directed against schools and the use of schools for military purposes, when in contravention of international humanitarian law, and encourages efforts to promote safe and protective school environments in humanitarian emergencies reaffirming the right to education for all and stressing the need of ensuring safe learning environments in humanitarian emergencies.’

Among others, the resolution recognises that ‘many children in armed conflict, in particular girls, lack access to education owing to attacks against schools, damaged or destroyed school buildings, mines and unexploded ordnance, insecurity, the prevalence of violence, including gender-based violence, in and around schools and loss of documentation.’

Indeed, some perpetrators have been targeting schools as their weapon of choice. For example, Boko Haram, a radical Islamist terrorist group, has been targetting schools because of the belief that schools teach Western values. Boko Haram conducts attacks in predominately Muslim states and the majority of abducted girls are Muslim. However, Christian girls have also been targeted by Boko Haram. Christian girls abducted by Boko Haram are forced to convert to Islam (and/or marry their abductors). Among others, Leah Sharibu, a 16-year-old Nigerian girl, one of the 110 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram members from their school in Dapchi in February 2018, continues to be enslaved despite the fact that all of the other girls have now been released. According to one of the other girls, Leah declined to renounce her Christian faith and this is the very reason Boko Haram continues to enslave her.  Similarly, attacks on Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt disrupt access to education of children in that region. 

The Coalition for Genocide Response welcomes the UN General Assembly resolution and pledges to use the opportunity of the UN day to speak against attacks on education and ensure the safety of all children at schools.

You can find the UN General Assembly resolution here: https://www.un.org/pga/74/wp-content/uploads/sites/99/2020/05/A_74_L.66.pdf

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