Schools as Zones of Peace: The Challenges of Making Afghan Schools Safe for Education

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This report was commissioned by Save the Children International (SCI) in Afghanistan as part of a small Schools as Zones of Peace (SZOP) pilot program being implemented in Faryab and Nangarhar provinces.

The SZOP concept is guided by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and is a program and advocacy concept which aims to ensure access to violence-free schools in armed conflict and post-conflict situations. It originated in Sri Lanka as Children as Zones of Peace in 1998 and was introduced to Nepal by Save the Children Norway in 2001 in partnership with UNICEF, numerous Nepali NGOs, and other international stakeholders.

Key amongst the underlying principles of the concept of SZOP is the notion that the home, school and the community are all connected for peace. Mobilizing and empowering children as promoters of peace is an important element.

In Afghanistan, children’s access to education has improved considerably during the last decade. Yet, as 2014 approaches— a year of national elections and of full security transition from the international coalition to Afghan national security forces—security continues to deteriorate in many parts of the country. This places the education gains and potential learning opportunities of many children at risk.

The purpose of this study was primarily to understand the coping mechanisms that individuals, communities, civil society and authorities use to mitigate the attacks and threats that schools, school staff, and students face. If these can be understood, there is potential for Save the Children and other stakeholders to provide support that will enhance those existing capacities.

At the same time as this research was undertaken, UNICEF and CARE International were also researching attacks on schools. In combination, these reports can provide valuable information for all development partners.