The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has been officially launched United Nations in New York. Save the Children is one of the founding members of this coalition.
It was an event that marked the beginning of what is set to be an exciting couple of weeks: the passing of a resolution that will ensure the UN Security Council reviews situations where schools and hospitals are attacked.
Our colleague from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was part of the high-level panel. He started off his presentation by reminding all present that children never choose to be part of any war; they never choose to see their parents, siblings and friends die due to attacks from armed groups.
Run, run as fast you can!
Given that this discussion focused on the most compelling reasons why the international community and governments must act now to protect education from attack, he presented the stories of three children who have been deeply affected by conflict in the eastern regions of the DRC.
They all had things in common: their schools had been attacked by armed groups, they had been exposed to the most unacceptable levels of violence and human rights violations and their lives had been at risk due to the attacks on their schools by rebel groups and armed forces.
But the common phrase in the three stories was: Run, run as fast as you can! often shouted out by teachers who at seeing armed individuals occupy the school grounds, or fire gunshots around the school area, knew that the only thing to save children’s lives was to run.
No one at home
Some ran to their homes, only to find no relatives and keep on running for fear of being caught and recruited or exposed to sexual violence; others ran only to find that the armed groups had already caught up with their families.
The lives of hundreds of thousands of DRC’s children are marked in similar ways, as are their lives of many children worldwide who live in situations of conflict we all hear about on a daily basis, but many more who are exposed to this violence in forgotten situations.
There is nothing more destructive for any society than to expose children to such gross violations and to destroy their development and future opportunities by attacking their right to education. The good news is that efforts are underway at all levels to stop and prevent attacks on education.