The right to education is not suspended during armed conflict and crisis. Education can provide physical and emotional protection, which can be both life-sustaining and lifesaving5 and can offer children stability and hope for the future during a time of upheaval.
And yet the reality for too many children and young people growing up in countries facing conflict and insecurity is that education is often one of the first human rights impacted. Their schools may be damaged, destroyed, or occupied by military forces and armed groups; students and their teachers may be attacked or abducted and children in school targeted for recruitment into armed groups. When education comes under attack and schools stop being places of safety, children are often denied their right to education for several years and live with lifelong trauma. Generations of young people are being failed and left further behind.
While the effects of attacks on education are felt by all students and teachers affected, in many contexts the experiences of girls and women are distinct – the kinds of abuses committed against them are often different, and the long-term consequences of attacks are often different from those faced by boys and men. For adolescent girls in particular, the longer-term impacts of attacks can be particularly devastating. Girls living in conflict and crisis affected contexts are nearly 90 percent more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in countries not affected by conflict.
The Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) is an inter-governmental political commitment by states to better protect schools and universities, their students and staff, during armed conflict. While an increasing number of states have endorsed the SSD, more needs to be done. It is critical that all governments endorse and fully implement the SSD and allocate adequate resources to keeping schools safe. Plan International is calling for particular attention to be given to the experiences of girls and women affected by attacks on education, and for implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration to be gender responsive.