Schools should be places of learning, security and peace, aisaid, praising education as not only providing knowledge and skills, but also transforming lives and fostering the development of people, communities and societies.
However, year after year, this fundamental right is attacked.
Extent of imagination
The senior UN official encouraged participants to imagine that you are a child in a class eager to learn, or a dedicated teacher to shape the minds of the next generation.
Now imagine the horrors caused by the learning conflict, he said, painting a picture of schools being targeted, destroyed or used for military purposes – and of children facing violence, exploitation, and even being recruited to fight simply because they want to study.
The Secretary-General quoted the Global Coalition for the Protection of Education from Attackin as revealing that between 2015 and 2020, over 13,000 reports of attacks on education, or military use of educational facilities, were recorded worldwide.
And that threat is not diminishing as the horrific events in Afghanistan are telling us so harshly, he said.
Mr. Guterres recalled that these are not numbers on one page, but thousands of individual lives and individual futures.
The loss is incalculable, he said.
Go beyond commitments
The UN called on all countries that have not yet done so to adopt the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental political commitment to protect students, teachers, schools and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict.
Adopted by 111 Statesto, the Declaration outlines the concrete steps the government has taken to protect schools and teaching.
We urge member states to go beyond their commitments under international law and set national policies and laws that protect schools and students, the UN chief said.
He stressed the need to hold perpetrators accountable by making attacks on schools unacceptable and punishable in every country and jurisdiction, worldwide.
Support for international protection
Finally, the UN chief called for increased global support for the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who are working around the clock to protect education, students, teachers and schools in some of the most dangerous places in the world.
While great strides have been made in recent years, more needs to be done to protect the right to education for all, he said.
As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am proud to stand with you in this important endeavor. Because when we protect education, we protect the future, he concluded.
UNRWA / Kazem Abu Khalaf
Name the day
In May 2020, the UN General Assembly established the day with a unanimous decision, calling on UNESCO and UNICEF to raise awareness of the plight of millions of children living in conflict-affected countries.
Esolutionaffirmed that Governments have the primary responsibility to ensure protection and to provide inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels for all students, especially those in vulnerable situations.
Furthermore, the need to intensify efforts and increase funding to promote safe and secure school environments in humanitarian emergencies was emphasized.
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