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The UK Commits to Safer Schools, Urged by the Actions of Global Citizens and Partners

Courtesy of the UK Department for International Development, Flickr

In a week of military action in Syria that is drawing global attention, it is important to remember the innocent human lives — including the many children — that suffer during conflict. An often-overlooked consequence during these periods is the impact on education, despite how critical learning is for children to rebuild their war-torn communities.

More than a third of Syrian schools have been destroyed or damaged by fighting leaving nearly 2 million children out of the classroom. And another 600,000 who have fled their homes are not in school. The story is much the same with rising conflict across the globe — 246 million children experience some kind of school violence in the world today.

Thus it came as very welcome news on Thursday that the UK became the 74th signatory to the Safe Schools Declaration — a commitment that serves as an official assurance that the UK will condemn attacks on schools, protect education during armed conflict, and offer supervision, services and teaching to save children’s lives.

Just 48 hours before, at the “Girls in Emergencies” reception co-hosted by Global Citizen and Coalition for Global Prosperity, Global Citizen and our partners at Send My Friend to School had performed a petition handover to the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, at the event. The petition contained the signatures of 25,549 people and children from 932 schools who want the UK to sign this declaration to make schools around the world safe. At the event, Johnson had indicated that the declaration would be signed “very soon.”

This vital commitment is thanks to your actions and the tireless campaign led by our partners — among them: Send My Friend to School, the Global Coalition to Protect Schools from Attack, Save the Children, Results UK, Plan UK, Human Rights Watch, Global Citizen and the Malala Fund. For the past four years these organizations have been urging the UK government to join 73 other countries, including Canada, France and New Zealand, as signatories to the Declaration.  

The importance of a commitment like this should not be underestimated. In Afghanistan, where at least 40 schools were attacked in 2016, the Education Ministry is using the declaration to push for the removal of military checkpoints and bases from schools, with other big steps also taken in Central African Republic, Nigeria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Of course, Global Citizen and partners will be watching closely to see that the UK government stands by this commitment and takes concrete steps to make it less likely that students, teachers, schools and universities will be attacked in coming months. And we invite other Commonwealth countries, like Australia, Malawi and Bangladesh, and G7 leaders like Japan and the United States to sign up to the Declaration to help every child stay safe in their place of learning.