Resolution on: Attacks on Schools in Africa

published 25 September 2019 updated 25 September 2019

The 8th Education International (EI) World Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, from 21 to 26 July 2019:

Notes that:

(1) Persistent terrorist attacks in Africa, notably in the Horn of Africa, including Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan, and particularly in the Sahelo-Saharan region of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, are constantly growing, expanding to neighbouring countries such as Benin, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and raising serious concerns;

(2) terrorism continues to be one of the most serious threats to security and peacefulness in the educational environment in Africa;

(3) while commendable effort is being made in tackling the threat of terrorism at the international and continental levels, there is growing realisation that the threat the African continent is currently facing is a complex one. This is particularly true in the Sahel region, where human trafficking, drug and arms smuggling, kidnapping-for-ransom, illicit proliferation of arms and money laundering - all of which are variants of transnational organised crime - have become intertwined with the activities of terrorist groups and the sources of their financing. This situation adversely affects security and stability in the region and has deep repercussions on education.

(4) schools have become specific targets of violent attacks whereby students and their educators are killed, thus leading to the closure of hundreds of schools and an increase in the number of school dropouts.

(5) more than 900 schools have been closed and more than 150,000 students were forcibly displaced in Mali, while in Burkina Faso, about 2,000 schools were closed in 2019, affecting the enrollment of more than 326,152 students;

Acknowledges that:

(6) the emergence and redeployment of terrorist groups in Africa and, in particular, in the Sahelo-Saharan region can be explained by the following reasons, to list only a few:

(i) poverty, illiteracy and high rate of unemployment among the youth and the general population, which make them vulnerable to the manipulative messages of terrorist groups and their promises of quick gain;

(ii) the quest for new sources of funding, especially through smuggling, drug trafficking, kidnapping and illegal migration;

(iii) the need to conquer new areas for recruitment and redeployment with the objective of expanding the confrontation beyond their traditional area of operations;

Given that:

(7) attacks on education are understood as any threat to or the actual use of force against students, teachers, academics, education support staff, education officials, as well as education buildings, resources, equipment or facilities for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, or religious reasons;

(8) attacks on education take many forms including blocking students from accessing their schools; deliberately or indiscriminately killing, maiming or traumatising students and education staff; and destroying or damaging schools and universities;

(9) attacks on education kill and injure, lead to student drop-out, the loss of teachers, extended school and university closures, diminished quality of education, forced displacement of children towards safer zones with already overloaded education facilities, enrolment of children in terrorist groups and sexual abuse, all with devastating and long term consequences for society;(10) attacks on education at all levels create a climate of fear and repression that undermines academic freedom and educational functions;

(11) millions of children in Africa face years without access to schools unless governments step up the fight against the growing terror;

(12) without access to education, a generation of children living in conflict areas will grow up without the skills needed to contribute to the development of their countries and economies, thereby exacerbating the already desperate situation of millions of children and their families in the region, as well as preventing them from accessing decent employment when they reach adult age;

(13) when they are out of school, children are easy targets of abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed forces and groups;

The 8th World Congress reasserts that:

(14) education is a basic human right and a public good. All children have a right to free, inclusive and equitable quality public education regardless of where they live. However, many children in Africa do not have access to education because of attacks on education;

(15) a child’s right to education cannot be safeguarded or protected in conflict zones without education itself being protected.

(16) schools should be safe sanctuaries providing a safe space where children can be protected from threats and crises;

(17) education is a critical step to breaking the cycle of crises and reducing the likelihood of future conflicts;

The 8th EI World Congress asks EI and its member organisations in Africa:

(18) to pressure their governments to:

(i) ratify and domesticate all instruments for the prevention and combating of terrorism in Africa and put in place mechanisms for the implementation of these instruments;

(ii) endorse, implement, and support the Safe Schools Declaration to ensure that all students and educators, male and female, can learn and teach in safety;

(iii) strengthen the monitoring and reporting of attacks on education, including by disaggregating data by type of attack on education, gender, age, and type of schooling, in order to strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to attacks on education;

(iv) systematically investigate attacks on education and prosecute perpetrators;(v) provide nondiscriminatory assistance to all victims of attacks on education and provide them with physical and psychosocial protection;

(vi) ensure that education promotes peace instead of triggering conflict.

The 8th EI World Congress further asks EI and its member organisations in Africa to:

(19) develop training programmes to build the resilience capacity of teachers in areas with high risk of attacks on schools.