Building peace in the minds of men and women

Afghanistan supports launch of Guidance Note on Attacks against schools and hospitals



Kabul 21st May, Yesterday evening Ms Susan Wardak, Senior Policy Advisor & General Director of Teacher Education, Ministry of Education spoke via video conference to UN Headquarters in New York for the launch of the Field Guidance Note on Attacks against schools and hospitals. The Guidance Note provides tools to better monitor and report attacks on schools and hospitals, which prevent children from their right to education and access to healthcare. The Guidance Note endorses SC Resolution 1998 (2011) and gives the United Nations a mandate to identify and list armed forces and groups who attack schools or hospitals, or protected persons.

The Ministry of Education is taking steps to make schools safer and one way to prevent attacks on schools in remote and insecure areas is by talking to community elders so that the community can protect their schools, another measure is to provide a temporary alternative environment for girls to study and female teachers to receive training. The Ministry of Education is trying to ensure that there are more female teachers trained, even in insecure areas. Ms Wardak highlighted that there were 900 female teachers at a teacher training college in one of the more insecure provinces. In insecure provinces an estimated 150,000 students do not have access to schools.

With support from UNESCO the Ministry of Education designed a Peace Education curriculum and teachers can be trained in how to identify symptoms of post-traumatic stress in children. The ministry also implements inclusive education, seeking to ensure gender equality. “People in Afghanistan understand the importance of sending their children to school and they will continue to strive for their children to have the right to education.” Ms Wardak called for a Working Group to be set up to implement the Guidance Note in Afghanistan to prevent attacks on schools and to better monitor and report attacks on schools.

Among the high level panel attending in New York were SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui and UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, who highlighted that attacks against schools are "a security crisis, a human rights crisis and a development crisis and we must act now.” UNESCO was directly involved in the drafting of the guidance note. Madame Bokova reiterated her concern that “conflicts are on the increase and children are in the front line with approximately 28 million girls and boys worldwide who have lost their right to education.”

The time has come to implement SC resolution 1998 via the Guidance Note and ensure that those working in field can better monitor and report attacks on schools and hospitals; children need to be able to enjoy their rights to education and health and violators need to understand that they are not free from impunity.