Doha, (10 September 2020) – Education Above All Foundation (EAA) and its global partners UNICEF and UNESCO have marked the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack on 9 September with a high-level virtual event. World leaders, campaigners, artists and global activists addressed the need for immediate on the ground action to protect education from attack, declaring that silence and impunity over the deliberate killing of children in classrooms places decision-makers on the wrong side of history.
Established by UN General Assembly resolution (A/RES/74/275), following a call to action by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of EAA and UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, the International Day is a global platform for decision-makers to focus on safeguarding education in conflict and building peace. It draws attention to the plight of more than 75 million 3-to-18-year-olds living in 35 crisis-affected countries that need urgent educational support.
In her keynote address, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser said:
“While we are working to eliminate illiteracy, there are those who are actively working to spread it, as if systematically targeting everything and everyone that drives human development. Around the world, children in conflict zones face frustrating realities and subsequent inaction from decision-makers. By failing to bring perpetrators to justice, the international community – however unintentionally – has become effectively complicit.”
“Education paves the way for security and stability. We still believe there are those within the international community who are willing to unite and take a stand, so that impunity does not become the official response toward attacks on education. With the International Day, we now have an annual benchmark to assess progress on an issue that is threatening a fundamental human right for every child.”
Speaking on accountability, António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said:
“We need to ensure that, when it comes to education, all means all. We need to improve our knowledge of attacks on education. This means enhanced monitoring, reporting and investigation of attacks so the perpetrators can be held to account.”
David Beckham, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Founder of the 7 Fund for UNICEF, said:
“We know that children want to learn. They want to go to school and be among their friends and teachers in a safe place. This should not be a luxury for any child, this should be their right. Amid the chaos of war and conflict, safe spaces to learn are even more important. All countries, all people are responsible for preventing attacks on education. It is a foundation for peace and prosperity, it can make or break a child’s future.”
Speaking on the importance of access to education for children in crisis-affected areas like her home country Colombia, Shakira, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, said:
“All of us have a role to play to protect the futures of learners. As someone who grew up in a country of conflict, I saw firsthand the challenges of kids trying to get an education while, on the way home, they were vulnerable to recruitment attempts by guerrilla groups, child labour or violence. We must urge leaders to take action and unite to protect.”
Lost learning opportunities extend beyond generations and threaten to erase decades of progress, particularly for marginalised segments of the population and those living under conflict and insecurity. Recent data has shown that there have been more than 11,000 attacks on education over the past five years, killing or injuring over 22,000 children, teachers and academics in more than 93 countries.
The event featured speeches and pleas for global change by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of EAA; António Guterres, UN Secretary-General; HE Prof Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the General Assembly; Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, David Beckham, Shakira and others.
Annually, the UN International Day to Protect Education from Attack on 9th September will remind the international community to stand up against complacency, and advocate for academic freedom and action to protect children in the world’s most vulnerable communities.
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Additional quotes from speakers:
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of EAA and UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, said:
- “Verbal support from the international community is no longer enough when serious, practical solutions are missing. Decision-makers should not hide behind rhetoric without taking real steps toward change.”
- “We do not want this day to be simply a ceremonial day on the United Nations calendar. Protection of education must be reflected and embodied by action on the ground.”
HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, said:
- “Education constitutes a major and effective tool for the development and prosperity, and in this context, the Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the inequality existing in the education field in some countries, and the urgent need to address it.”
HE Philippe Goffin, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Kingdom of Belgium, said:
- “The International Day to Protect Education from Attack serves as a strong, clear and timely wake-up call for the entire international community and especially for political leaders.”
- “Indeed, it is up to us, as States, to provide protection and ensure inclusive and equitable quality education. It is up to us to defend the right to education. It is up to us to ensure that the perpetrators of attacks against schools are held to account.”
HE Ms. Virginia Gamba, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, said:
- “Today, as the fight against COVID-19 continues, children in war zones are even more vulnerable to violence and their hope for an education further diminishes. We need the international community, parties to armed conflict and the local communities to prioritize the protection of children and the prevention of violations against children.”
- “I appeal to all parties to conflict to make concrete commitments to end attacks on schools and refrain from military use of these facilities and I appeal to all Member States to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to guarantee that schools be protected spaces.”
Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said:
- “Schools have become treacherous places instead of refuges for learning and opportunity. Attacks on education are attacks on future potential of individuals, communities and entire countries.”
- “I hope this international day is a clear rallying call for action. We must not simply help people survive, we must enable lives of dignity and opportunity.”
Education Above All (EAA) Foundation
The Education Above All (EAA) Foundation is a global education foundation established in 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. EAA envisions bringing hope and real opportunity to the lives of impoverished and marginalised children, youth and women, especially in the developing world and in dire circumstances such as conflict situations and natural disasters. We believe that education is the single most effective means of reducing poverty, generating economic growth and creating peaceful and just societies, as well as a fundamental right for all children and an essential condition to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For more information, visit educationaboveall.org.
EAA is comprised of four programmes: Educate A Child (EAC), Al Fakhoora, Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), and Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC). In addition to providing access to education for children around the world, EAA advocates to safeguard inclusive and quality education for all.