“The universal right to education is still contested in some places, and I take this opportunity to condemn the abduction of more than 270 girls in Nigeria by extremist groups,” said Irina Bokova. “This is an unacceptable violation of human rights. It is an attack against the aspirations of these girls. It is an attack against the future of Nigeria. No belief can justify this act.”
“Our response to such extremism is clear,” declared the Director-General. “We must never relent in providing every girl and boy with a quality education. We must never tire in supporting education as a force for human dignity and sustainable development. This calls for greater cooperation and coordination among States. UNESCO is determined to support the Nigerian government to “bring back our girls.”
This act in Nigeria is not isolated. In recent years, UNESCO has witnessed increasing cases of deliberate attacks against schools, teachers and students, especially against girl’s education, in countries across the world. In 2011, UNESCO documented the hidden crisis of education in times of conflicts, in its Education for All Global Monitoring Report, demonstrating that half of the world’s out of school children live in countries affected by conflicts. The 2011 Report helped spearhead a movement to protect schools as safe places and the human right of education. Later this month, the UNESCO Director General and UN Special representative for Children in armed conflicts Leila Zerrougui, together with UNICEF and other partners, will launch in New York a Guidance Note on the Security Council Resolution on education in conflicts adopted in July 2011, to enhance the protection of education.
In this respect, Irina Bokova spoke of the importance of UNESCO’s work to promote girls’ education in countries across the world, including in some of the most challenging circumstances. She underlined, for instance, the importance of the Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education that she honoured to launch with the Government of Pakistan in Islamabad this February. The Director-General noted also the launch of a new phase of UNESCO’s Enhancement of Literacy Programme to reach 600,000 learners throughout Afghanistan, with the support of Japan, as well as the Organization’s engagement to support schooling for Syrian refugee youth in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. She drew attention also to the increasing achievements of UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, for instance, in Senegal and Tanzania, working with major private sector companies to support girls’ education.