Pope upholds right to education notwithstanding wars and violence

10 September 2020
Pope Francis speaks during Wednesday's General Audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican. Image: ANSA/Vatican News.


The UN-sponsored International Day to Protect Education from Attack is being observed for the first time on 9 September. Pope Francis and the UN have given support to the initiative.

As the world celebrates the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack on Wednesday, Pope Francis appealed to the international community to ensure educational structures are protected from attacks.

“I invite you to pray for students who are seriously deprived of the right to education due to war and terrorism,” he said during his weekly General Audience on Wednesday in the Vatican.

“I urge the international community to do its utmost so that the structures that must protect young students be respected,” he said, speaking in Italian. “May efforts that guarantee safe environments for their education not wain, above all in situations of humanitarian crises,” he added.

The UN

The 9 September International Day to Protect Education from Attack was established on May 2020 by a unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly, calling on UNESCO and UNICEF to raise awareness of the plight of millions of children living in countries affected by conflict. The resolution proclaiming the Day was presented by the State of Qatar and co-sponsored by 62 countries.

The Day draws attention to the plight of more than 75 million 3-to-18-year-olds living in 35 crisis-affected countries and to their urgent need of educational support.

“As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, children and youth in conflict zones remain among the most vulnerable to its devastating impact,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a message for the day. “We must ensure our children have a safe and secure environment in which to learn the knowledge and skills they need for the future,” he said.


The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also added its voice insisting, “schools must remain safe places, free of conflict and violence”. “Our collective future, as well as the achievements of all development goals, depend on it,” said UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay. “Safeguarding the right to education for all,” she said, “contributes to the achievement of sustainable development and nurtures the international community’s decades-long gains towards peace, economic prosperity, and social inclusion worldwide.’’


According to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, “Attacks on schools are a violation of humanity and basic decency. We must not allow these senseless attacks to destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation of children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “We must do all in our power to ensure that schools and the children and teachers within them are protected,’’ she said. “As the world begins planning to re-open schools once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides,” she urged that “schools remain safe places of learning, even in countries in conflict.”

Did you know?

  • More than 22,000 students, teachers, and academics were injured, killed, or harmed in attacks on education during armed conflict or insecurity over the past five years.
  • Between 2015 and 2019, 93 countries experienced at least one reported attack on education.
  • Students and educators were most frequently harmed by direct attacks in Afghanistan, Cameroon, and Palestine.
  • Armed forces, other state actors, and armed groups used schools and universities for military purposes in 34 countries between 2015 and 2019, including as bases, detention centres, and weapons stores.
  • In the past five years, state armed forces or armed groups reportedly recruited students from schools in 17 countries.

(Source: Education under Attack 2020)

With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.


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