(March 5, 2018 - New York) The governments of the Dominican Republic and Mali have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, becoming the 72nd and 73rd countries to commit to safeguarding education during armed conflict, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said today. Over one third of the African Union and the Organization of American States have joined the Declaration.
he Safe Schools Declaration is a political commitment championed by Argentina and Norway. By endorsing the Declaration, countries agree to take specific steps to reduce the risk of attacks on education, including by using the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict as a practical tool to guide their behavior during military operations.
"Schools, universities, students, teachers, and academics in conflicts around the world are put at risk of attack by opposing forces due to the military use of educational infrastructure, said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director." By implementing the Safe Schools Declaration, and avoiding the military use of schools, not only can disruption to education be limited, but lives can be saved."
In addition to death and injury, students, teachers and academics face the risk of recruitment into armed parties, sexual exploitation and abuse, and psychological trauma as a result of military use of educational institutions.
Research for GCPEA's upcoming global report, Education under Attack 2018, shows that 28 countries, including Mali, experienced at least 20 attacks on education during the period 2013 to 2017. Girls and women were targeted because of their gender in at least 17 of these countries, including Mali, which was also one of the 29 countries in which military use of educational buildings was reported during the same time period. Females are often disproportionately impacted by attacks on education and military use of schools and universities.
Most recently, on February 28, an attack occurred near Markounda, in the northwestern region of the Central African Republic, killing two members of the Ministry of Education, one UNICEF staff, and two staff members of a local education organization.
"The killing of education advocates in CAR is just the latest tragic example of education being targeted in armed conflict," said Nijhowne. "It underscores the need to take immediate and decisive action to protect all education actors in situations of insecurity, including policy makers and education providers who deliver the education systems that are essential for development and rebuilding after the conflict."
By endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, the governments of the Dominican Republic and Mali are making significant commitments to implementing plans and policies to better protect education, and ultimately the future of their societies.