#NeverAgain: a global appeal against violence in schools

Kanzi primary school. Gemena (Equateur province), Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Kanzi primary school. Gemena (Equateur province), Democratic Republic of Congo.

CREDIT: GPE/Federico Scoppa

Never Again’ was the slogan of the students protesting fatal shootings in US schools that killed 25 students and injured another 26 in 17 incidents in the first 12 weeks of 2018.  Organized by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman killed 17 students on February 14, the March for Our Lives movement gathered hundreds of thousands in US cities and also in other countries.  

#DontBombChildren

Gun attacks in schools in the United States often make the headlines of international news, but other attacks on education and children in the world’s developing countries too often don’t.

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A recent Save the Children study found that 1 in 6 children around the world is now living in conflict and war zones. The total estimated number of children affected by conflict and war is 357 million. This is more than the population of the US, and close to the total population of the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden put together.

The European Union, in a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2018, said that there was scarcely a violation of the human rights of children that was not being committed in the context of the Syrian conflict, from the right to life to the right to education, from sexual violence to attacks on schools.

#ChildrenNotSoldiers

Schools in many countries across the world are targets of brutal attacks, occupation and threats. Save the Children documented at least at least 2,000 attacks in Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone in 2017.

Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, reported that only in Syria only there have been at least 581 cases of use of children in armed conflict in 2017.

Attacks on schools and students take many forms. In Nigeria, girls were abducted from schools by armed groups in 2014 and earlier this year again; in South Sudan schools are often occupied by armed groups, and teachers and headteachers are threatened not to go to school. And most heinous of all is when children are forced to act as soldiers or in other occupations for armed groups during a conflict.

#NotATarget

The Global Partnership for Education works in many of conflict-affected countries (currently 15 partner countries are in this category). Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan, DRC and CAR combined have received more than US$500 million in GPE grants to strengthen their education systems so that their schools can become safe places of learning for all children.

Participants at the March for our Lives in Washington, DC on March 24

Participants at the March for our Lives in Washington, DC on March 24

Photo Credit: Fazle Rabbani

Instruments like the transitional education plan, the guidelines for accelerated support for emergency and early recovery, and the Operational Framework for effective support in fragile and conflict-affected states provide countries and GPE flexible and appropriate ways to support children in emergency and post-emergency situations.

The GPE Financing Conference in February 2018 highlighted the voice of the youth who called for a special status for teachers as first responders in emergency and for ensuring right to education for children affected by conflict and displacement. Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Education in a recent article emphasized the importance of supporting the new movement created globally by the youth.

#ImpunityMustStop

Attacking children, schools, hospitals and places of worships are against international laws - even during wars. There are international mechanisms in place for documenting and investigating such acts. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack investigates attacks on schools and children. However, compliance is poor and investigation leading to prosecution is rare.

Countries where children and schools are under attack need their own #NeverAgain movement. At GPE, we commit to continuously bringing these difficult issues to the table and helping our partners support the children who need it the most.

 

Author(s)

Senior Education Specialist, Global Partnership for Education
Fazle Rabbani is the country lead for GPE programs in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea, and Lesotho. Fazle’s main area of interest is education governance and how different governance models impact access...

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