“Every child who lives, unfortunately, in conflict areas loses their childhood” – Ziauddin Yousafzai, UN Special Advisor on Global Education and Malala Yousafzai’s Father
September 21st marks International Day of Peace, a day for all humanity to come together, in spirit and in action, “to work together for a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world”. This year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are leading the way in directing how we approach peacebuilding in countries around the globe. While the 17 SDGs provide an excellent framework for the ways in which governments and civil society should work toward global development, there is still a long way to go in creating a culture of peace globally.
Amongst the 17 SDGs, is Goal 4: Quality Education. Goal 4 seeks to ensure “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. However, at this time, Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that schools and universities have been used in 26 armed conflicts in the last decade. As HRW states, “Around the world, schools are attacked or being occupied by military forces in conflict zones… Sports fields become battlefields. Classrooms become munitions rooms. This has a devastating effect on children. It endangers their lives, their teachers’ lives, and denies hundreds of thousands of children their right to education”.
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, has been one of the biggest proponents of Goal 4. After having survived being shot in the head on her way to school in 2012, Malala has become one of the most dynamic advocates for education, especially for girls. However, Malala’s story is not a single incident – this is a reality faced by many children living in conflict zones.
In May 2015, the Safe Schools Declaration was introduced as a way to commit governments to “strengthen the prevention of, and response to, attacks on education during armed conflict”. While 60 countries attended the conference launching the Safe Schools Declaration, at this time, only 29 countries have signed.
Canada is amongst many of the countries that have yet to endorse the declaration. On this International Day of Peace, Human Rights Watch is calling on Justin Trudeau to sign the Safe Schools Declaration because as Ziauddin Yousafzai, UN Special Advisor on Global Education and Malala Yousafzai’s Father, emphasizes, “schools are the only place that use hope for the future, that use hope for peace”.
For more information and to join the HRW in ensuring that all children around the world should be able to go to school in safety, please visit: SchoolsNotBattlegrounds