Repel intensifying attacks on schools, urges Guterres

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Marking the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was important to defend “havens of education”.

“Education is not only a fundamental human right, but a pathway to a better future for every person, and a more peaceful, understanding world,” he underscored.

He voiced a startling truth: around the globe 224 million children and young people are in urgent need of educational support – including 72 million who are out-of-school altogether – because of crises such as armed conflict.

Attacks double

According to a comprehensive report on children and armed conflicts published by the UN chief earlier this year, from January to December 2022, there was a 112 per cent rise in attacks targeting schools and hospitals, with hotspots identified in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Israel, Palestine, Myanmar and Mali. In Afghanistan, for instance, the UN confirmed 95 attacks against civilian targets including 72 school-related ones. The report attributes 50 percent of grave violations to groups that are not state-sponsored. As Mr. Guterres put it, “attacks on students, teachers, educational personnel and schools are becoming all too common, cruelly disrupting young learners’ education and inflicting untold psychological and physical damage that can last a lifetime.”

Disrupted learning

As put by Mr. Guterres, “attacks on students, teachers, educational personnel and schools are becoming all too common, cruelly disrupting young learners’ education and inflicting untold psychological and physical damage that can last a lifetime.”

One of the clear signs of the education deficit is the startling statistic that 763 million people around the world – adults and youngsters – lack even basic literacy skills.

‘Havens of safety and learning’

The Secretary-General urged all countries to ensure the protection of schools, children and teachers at all times, through measures such as the Safe Schools Declaration and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

Through joint efforts, Mr. Guterres believes, schools can become “havens of safety and learning for every child, no matter where they live”.