Seek to ensure the continuation of education during armed conflict, support the reestablishment of educational facilities and, where in a position to do so, provide and facilitate international cooperation and assistance to programs working to prevent or respond to attacks on education, including for the implementation of this Declaration
The closure of educational facilities, even for a limited period of time, can have a severe and long-lasting impact on learning and prevent students from returning to education. Continuing education in a safe place during armed conflict is essential to provide quality learning opportunities and a sense of normality, safety, and routine for children and young people experiencing armed conflict whilst building foundations for peace among future generations. Alternative delivery of education, such as building temporary structures and radio instruction programs, can help to ensure a rapid return to education.
Governments should guarantee safe access to education, including by ensuring that school grounds are free from weapons and explosive remnants of war, that routes to schools are safe, and that buildings are adequately reinforced and protected. Physical protection measures should be implemented in order to protect educational infrastructure from attack.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of recommended actions to be undertaken by governments and civil society and international organizations to implement the commitment to continue safe education during armed conflict, and re-establish educational facilities.
Civil Society and International Organizations
EXAMPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE
Burkina Faso: In 2020, the Minister of Education announced in May that distance learning introduced due to Covid 19, would extend to students affected by conflict, in collaboration with UNICEF, UNESCO and regional bodies.
Central African Republic: In 2006, when entire communities in conflict-affected areas in northern Central African Republic fled to the bush to avoid fighting and attacks targeting villages, temporary “bush schools” were established by teachers, parents, and community members, with assistance from UNICEF and other donors, including the United Kingdom Department of International Development (DfID) and the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). Parents were offered short teacher training courses and served as teachers in the bush schools. They delivered lessons that attempted to parallel the national curriculum taught in government schools, teaching over 100,000 students in makeshift shelters or under trees.
Niger: It was reported that, in 2016, the Ministry of Education of Niger, together with UNICEF, relocated to safer locations 99 of 166 schools that had been closed due to insecurity. In the Diffa region, it was reported by UNOCHA that 74 schools had been relocated, but 30 schools remained closed at the time of reporting (January 2017). Alternative education is delivered via a radio program for children who cannot travel to school due to insecurity.
Nigeria: The American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola designed a Transactional Radio Instruction (TRI) program – the Technology Enhanced Learning for All (TELA) program – to enhance the educational outcomes for 22,000 vulnerable 247 children in Adamawa State. A core component of the program was using radio and mobile technologies to provide literacy and numeracy lessons to those who had no access to education due to the conflict.
Nigeria: In response to attacks on education in Nigeria’s northern states carried out by Boko Haram beginning in 2012, A Safe School Initiative (SSI) was launched in 2014 by Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and a coalition of Nigerian business leaders. In 2015, in an attempt to maintain continuity of education for the children internally displaced by the conflict in these states, the SSI partners (DFID, UNICEF, and the Ministry of Education) began to develop several measures, including:
- Transferring secondary school students from conflict zones to safer areas;
- Holding sensitization meetings with host communities to identify capacity to accept displaced students;
- Enrolling displaced students into normal school programs in host community schools;
- Adapting schools to accommodate double shifts and appointing additional teachers;
- Providing temporary schools in the camps for internally displaced;
- Providing limited tents and learning materials to encourage enrolment and retention of students in internally displaced camps.
Somalia: Education Development Center’s (EDC) Somali Interactive Radio Instruction Program provided consistent broadcast of education programs on literacy, numeracy, life skills, health, and conflict prevention between 2005 and 2011. Broadcasts were transmitted three hours a day for up to five days a week on FM band to the common household radio, potentially reaching over 300,000 children. With the interactive radio instruction broadcasts, local teachers led classes. Simultaneously, teachers were trained in interactive teaching methods such as activities, stories, and songs that could be broadcast via radio. Following the program’s closure in 2011, EDC signed licensing agreements with the Ministries of Education for Somaliland, Puntland, South Central (Federal), and with other NGOs allowing them to continue to use the program and materials. According to the EDC, these Ministries continue to implement the program.
Syria: In northern Syria, temporary, makeshift schools staffed by both trained and untrained volunteer teachers were set up in more secure villages when parents in some areas had been afraid to send their children to their regular local schools.
Ukraine: Distance learning was offered to students in some government-controlled areas in Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 during periods of intense fighting between government forces and pro-Russian insurgents. While some schools remained open for students still willing to attend, parents or guardians picked up assignments for students who stopped attending due to the risks involved. In areas where schools were temporarily closed, teachers utilized phone, email, and Skype to provide assignments and even lessons.
Central African Republic: In 2015, in some areas, community members, with the support of UNICEF, started an SMS alert system, EduTrac, that linked schools, communities, and local and national Ministries via text message. This allowed education personnel, especially in schools in remote communities, to communicate education data, such as enrollment and attendance, to regional and national education authorities. In addition, schools targeted for attack could utilize EduTrac to report attacks to the Ministries and police and receive support.
Niger: School directors in insecure areas of Niger have the telephone number of a local military contact and can make a direct appeal for action if a threat develops. Joint education and child protection activities have been developed, with awareness-raising among teachers on protection themes, such as the recruitment of children by armed non-state actors, family reunification, and risks linked to explosive devices. Alternative education is delivered via a radio program for children who cannot travel to school due to insecurity.
Nepal: A campaign to keep schools safe during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal gained momentum between 2000 and 2003, led in particular by UNICEF and World Education. Community facilitators, mostly women, were trained to get all parties to conflict to the table and negotiate codes of conduct to protect schools and enable the safe continuation of education. Stakeholders involved in these negotiations, in addition to the army and the Maoists, included local government and education officials, police, community-based organizations, school management committee representatives, and political parties. Civil society and local media representatives were also mobilized to act as monitors once codes of conduct were negotiated. Agreed codes of conduct were often displayed at the entrances of schools. UNICEF developed a sample code of conduct; many of the schools concerned by the campaign adopted all of the points in this sample code: Sample school code of conduct:
- No weapons in the perimeter.
- No political rallies or other activities which are not included in the teaching programme.
- No arrest or abduction of any individual within the premises.
- No harassment to children in and outside schools.
- No interference with normal development of education activities. (Strikes, teacher harassment, attacks on schools.)
- No use of school uniforms or premises in warfare.
- Never consider school premises as possible target, no use of school as armed base, no use of school uniforms for camouflaging purposes.
- We request all the parties; the security forces and the Maoists respect these rules to help us make this school a Zone of Peace.
The same strategy was adopted during a “Welcome to School” campaign in 2004 aiming to raise primary school enrollment of girls and marginalized groups. Community-based groups and teachers reached out to the Maoists to secure adherence or ensure non-interference with the campaign. The campaign covered 24,000 schools and resulted in the enrollment of over 500,000 additional children.”
Niger: According to the information provided by the Ministry of Education, Niger's Safe Schools approach as of July 2023 includes different measures to implement the Safe Schools Declaration at the school and community level, including: identifying the vulnerabilities of schools, identifying emergency sites in zones of conflict taking into account the movement of armed groups, updating school codes of conduct to incorporate considerations about vulnerabilities, and establishing participatory committees of teachers, parents, and relevant Ministry of Education’s bodies to manage the crisis.
Nigeria: In October 2021, the Nigerian Ministry of Defence, in collaboration with the Education in Emergencies Working Group, launched the Safe Schools Declaration Trainer's Guide and Participants' Manual for Nigerian Security Agencies and Human Rights Institutions. Assessment Forms to provide a situational checklist to guide decisions about when to close or reopen schools in conflict-affected states were piloted in 2021.
Nigeria: Nigeria implements several measures to enhance school security, such as: constructing ditches around school perimeter fences; installing security lighting throughout school compounds; using sand bags to deter intruders; deploying armed military personnel to carry out vehicular and foot patrols; stationing security personnel at school gates; and setting up roadblocks on access roads.
Pakistan: Following the 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan, the Government of the Punjab, Home Department, issued an advisory note requesting that all schools increase school security within 48 hours through specified measures. Among the list of 24 activities were several physical protection measures: 1) Constructing boundary walls around the school up to 8 feet in height; 2) Fencing the boundary wall with razor wire up to another 2 feet in height; 3) Using a single entry/exit gate generally and using a second gate only in exceptional circumstances or as an emergency exit; 4) Erecting concrete barriers at the entry/exit gate; 5) Installing a walk-through gate and using metal detectors for physical search of the entrants and using bottom view mirrors for checking vehicles; and 6) Ensuring zigzag entry into premises by deploying concrete barriers.