Safe Schools

Introduction

The quality of teaching and learning is enhanced by supportive environment that ensures the safety and health of all teachers and students. Education systems should provide environments that are supportive, comfortable, safe, and secure for all.

According to the 2014 report, Education Under Attack, students of all ages, teachers, academics, education unions and education institutions were the target of international attacks for political, military, ideological, sectarian, ethnic, or religious reasons from 2009-2013.

Various initiatives protect the right to education and promote the continuation of education in situations of armed conflict. In 2014, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2143, guaranteeing the right to education for children in armed conflict. An important element in this resolution is the reference to the use of schools by armed forces. The UN resolution urges all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian character of schools, urges states to ensure that attacks on schools are investigated and those responsible are prosecuted, and calls upon the UN to intensify the reporting on the military use of schools.

Policy

In 2009, EI adopted a Declaration that ‘Schools Shall be Safe Sanctuaries’ and engaged in advocacy initiatives to urge the international community to prevent violations of the right to education, to ensure the safety and security of learners, teachers, education personnel, and academics everywhere, and to strengthen international law and end impunity.

Education is recognized as a fundamental right no matter the circumstances, and the utmost must be done to protect schools and children’s right to education. The facts may vary across diverse regions, but the bottom line remains the same: increasingly in conflict countries and fragile states, teachers and students are putting their lives at risk simply by showing up to school, because rebels, armed forces, and repressive regimes consider schools, universities, students, and teachers as legitimate targets.

EI stresses the importance of schools being safe, comfortable, and to be good environments for teaching and learning. Dangers to students and teachers, in addition to external threats, also include occupational health and safety issues which often affect students as well as students. Such issues include poorly designed school buildings, exposure to asbestos or other dangerous substances, phyco-social dangers like work-related stress, violence and harassment.

Activities

Guidelines on Protecting Education from Attack

Education International is promoting a wide ratification of an international Safe Schools Declaration, which commits signatory states to protect education by improving monitoring and reporting of attacks, assisting victims, investigating attacks, prosecuting perpetrators and introducing conflict sensitive approaches to education. These are some of the measures recommended in report of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The Declaration also commits states to endorse and use the guidelines for protecting schools and universities from military use during armed conflict.

In 2009, EI adopted a Declaration that ‘Schools Shall be Safe Sanctuaries’ and engaged in advocacy initiatives to urge the international community to prevent violations of the right to education, to ensure the safety and security of learners, teachers, education personnel, and academics everywhere, and to strengthen international law and end impunity.

Education is recognized as a fundamental right no matter the circumstances, and the utmost must be done to protect schools and children’s right to education. The facts may vary across diverse regions, but the bottom line remains the same: increasingly in conflict countries and fragile states, teachers and students are putting their lives at risk simply by showing up to school, because rebels, armed forces, and repressive regimes consider schools, universities, students, and teachers as legitimate targets.

Over the years, EI has consistently condemned the murders of children and teachers who were killed in education environments. EI has also expressed deep concern over the respect of the right to education in safety in the Middle East.

In 2010, EI was a co-founder of GCPEA, in particular its work to encourage governments to endorse the guidelines for protecting education during armed conflict.

Awareness about Violence, Bullying and Harassment and its Prevention 

Consistent with its policy that schools must be safe and secure to ensure the best possible situation for teaching and learning and that education should advance human rights principles by promoting inclusiveness, diversity, and understanding, Education International has supported major anti-bullying campaigners to create awareness in schools and communities about bullying and harassment prevention.

Specifically, EI joined the initiative Stand 4 Change Day against bullying. On a specific day (May 6, 2016), all school communities are invited to stand together for five minutes around noon (local time) to commit to create a safe learning environment for all students and education personnel. The Stand 4 Chang initiative also includes the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), among others.

ETUCE, the European region of EI, has extensive activities on harassment of teachers and students. This work, which formally began in 2007, has resulted in a number of Guides and agreements. Harassment includes third-party harassment and cyber-harassment, where the internet and social networks are used to attack students and teachers. ETUCE and their member organisations are working with employers and governments to develop national plans to combat harassment. Additional information can be found at: https://www.csee-etuce.org/en/policy-issues/teachers-health-and-safety/violence-and-harassment/866-violence-and-harassment.

EI is working with UNESCO and UN Women in a campaign against gender-based violence. Students are victims and perpetrators of this violence, but victims also include teachers and other school staff. Gender-based violence may have long-term impact. It may limit victims’ participation in the economy and in society. Schools and all other educational institutions should never be plagued with fear, but should be safe and secure spaces for workers and learners alike:

GMR 2011 on Education and Armed Conflict

The 2011 Global Monitoring Report, which analyses trends towards the achievement of the Education for All goal, examined the devastating effects of armed conflict on education with 42% of out-of-school children living in conflict-affected countries.

The report set out an agenda for protecting the right to education during conflict, strengthening provision for children, youth and adults, securing education provisions in humanitarian relief and rebuilding education systems in countries emerging from conflict. Because the GMR focuses on countries in armed conflict, it fails to report on the subtle attacks involving state actors mostly targeting the higher education sector. EI members report that these attacks on mostly unionized teachers promoting academic freedom, more inclusive curriculum and language of instruction, or reporting corruption in education are insidious and also occur in non-conflict situations.

The GMR also explores the role in appropriate education policies in creating conditions for violent conflict. Drawing on experience from a range of countries, it sets out solutions to make education a force for peace, social cohesion, and dignity.

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