Ensuring the protection of schools and education as the world addresses the COVID-19 pandemic is of utmost importance reminds the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
Reaffirming the calls for a global ceasefire made by the Security Council (SCR 2532) on 1 July and by the Secretary-General on 23 March, the Special Representative further warns that schools are more than ever viewed as strategic assets in several conflict situations and could be instrumentalized as part of hostilities.
“With schools’ closure or the shift to alternative learning options as a result of the pandemic, it remains fundamental to preserve the civilian character of schools, as necessary to the protection of children living amidst conflict,” said Virginia Gamba. More than a billion children are currently out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to UNESCO.
The Special Representative encourages parties to conflict to take all the necessary measures to protect schools and education from attacks and to prevent the military use of schools. In this context, she welcomes the military directive to protect schools and education issued earlier this week by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) prohibiting the military use of schools by its forces and calls on all parties to conflict to follow this example and issue similar command orders.
“This commitment to protect the civilian character of schools by the SDF is a positive step for the protection of children in Syria and is in line with the letter and spirit of resolution 1998 (2011) of the Security Council,” says Virginia Gamba. The military directive follows the vacating of 10 schools by the SDF as the result of continued advocacy by the United Nations and partners.
The SRSG also reminds all parties to conflict globally that attacks against schools and hospitals, as well as those against education and health workers, is a grave violation against children. She further calls on all Governments who have not done so to sign the Safe Schools Declaration.