On 2 October, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, made an appeal for the protection of schools in situations of conflict. This appeal is made in the context of the reported attack on a primary school in Homs, Syria, which has killed dozens of children, as well as reported shelling against a school in Ukraine.
“I strongly condemn yesterday’s deadly attack on Akrameh al-Makhzumi primary school in the city of Homs”, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “It is horrendous and totally unacceptable that children studying in schools are taken as direct targets of hatred and violence. At all times, schools must be respected as safe places of learning and of personal growth and development”.
An estimated 2.8 million children inside Syria have been left without education as a result of the current crisis, with over 3,400 schools damaged or destroyed. This education disaster is compounded by the fact that some 1.5 million Syrian children are refugees in neighbouring countries and the majority do not have access to education.
“The protection of education cannot wait. It is critical that boys and girls, as well as education staff, are safe in their schools to effectively teach and learn. The continuity of education is vital to protect civilians, to contain a vicious circle of violence and for children to heal and recover”, said the Director-General. “We must step up efforts to keep schools out of conflict in Syria and everywhere. In this respect, I condemn yesterday’s reported shelling of a school in Ukraine. Education and the future it brings to young people cannot be taken hostage by violence”.
Conflict and violence have prevented thousands of children and young people from getting back to school at the start of the new school year. The opening of school has been delayed one month in Donetsk, Ukraine, because of the crisis, and the first day of the new academic year, on 1 October, was marked by the reported shelling of a school in the city.
UNESCO’s commitment to stand up for the protection of the right to education during conflict has been reaffirmed on several occasions recently, including through the recently released Guidance Note on the Implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1998 ("attacks on schools and hospitals"), which calls on Member States to prevent attacks on schools and hospitals, as well as their military use. As a member of the Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack, UNESCO is acting across the world to protect schools and the right to education in countries affected by conflict.