Education International welcomes the move by Botswana to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, a commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of war.
Botswana has become on 15 June the 66th country to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, joining the one third of UN member states that have already signed on to this commitment to safeguard education during armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Botswana’s endorsement brings the number of African Union endorsing states to 18, also one third of its members.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council had urged all member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, recognising the pivotal role that education plays in bringing stability to the continent. Botswana hosts the South African Development Community (SADC), making its endorsement particularly important for the region.
Attacks on education institutions in at least 27 countries around the world, including 12 in Africa
According to GCPEA’s latest research, since 2013, in at least 27 countries around the world, including 12 in Africa, schools and universities have been systematically bombed and burned, or students and education staff deliberately killed, maimed, raped, abducted, or recruited into armed parties at, or on the way to, school or university. Also in at least 27 countries, including 13 in Africa, schools and universities have been used for military purposes, such as barracks and bases, weapons stores, and detention centers by armed parties, converting them into targets for attack and placing the lives of those within them at risk. By joining the Safe Schools Declaration, countries commit to taking concrete action to protect against these attacks and military use of schools and universities.
The Safe Schools Declaration, which was developed in a state-led process headed by Norway and Argentina, was opened for endorsement in Oslo on 29 May 2015. It includes commitments to:
· Endorse and use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict
· Strengthen monitoring and reporting of attacks
· Investigate allegations of attacks and prosecute perpetrators where appropriate
· Develop and promote conflict-sensitive education policies
· Continue safe education during armed conflict
The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, also highlighted the urgent need to protect against attacks on schools, universities, their students and staff. In his May 2017’s report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, he urged member states to endorse the Declaration.
The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is a unique coalition of international organisations, including Human Rights Watch, the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict, Save the Children, the Scholars at Risk Network, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNESCO.