Our land soaked in blood, gloom, South-East Bishops wail

By Joseph Erunke

ABUJA–THE 4th International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration, to behosted by Nigeria, Argentina, Norway, Spain, the African Union Commission, and GCPEA comes up between Monday and Wednesday,next week, in Abuja.

The event,according to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Arch. Sonny Echono,who briefed journalists ahead of it,Monday,in Abuja, “seeks to galvanize action to protect education from attack.”

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The conference with the theme:”Ensuring Safe Education for All:From Commitment to Practice”, is coming against the background of continuous attacks on schools and students across the world.

The Conference on Safe schools Declaration is a biennial event with the overarching aim of taking stock and reviewing progress in implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration,SSD, and the guidelines for protecting schools and universities from military use during armed conflict, as well as encouraging commitment and action in protecting education from attack. 

“With the incessant attacks on education which is further compounded with the COVID 19 situation, you will agree with me that there is high need to better protect education forimproved educational outcomes,” Echono explained.

The Abuja Conference is the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration, and first to be held on the African continent. 

The previous conferences (1st, 2nd & 3rd conferences) were held in 2015, 2017 and 2019 in Oslo Norway, Buenos Aires Argentina and Palma de Mallorca, Spain respectively. 

The permanent secretary explained that,”The 4th International Conference on Safe School Declaration (ICSSD) will build on previous conferences by galvanizing support for the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) and monitoring UN member states’ progress in carrying out the Declaration’s commitments to better protect learners and learning institutions.”

“The Conference will also serve to maintain and amplify momentum of the SSD and its commitment to make safe education for all a reality

Nigeria is co-hosting the Conference, with the African Union Commission AUC, the governments of Argentina, Norway, and Spain, as well as the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack,GCPEA,” he said.

He further explained thar,”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; implement concrete measures to deter security forces from use of schools: make governments commit to strengthened monitoring and reporting of attacks on education: investigate and prosecute perpetrators of attacks on education and provide assistance to victims.” 

He spoke further: “The Declaration was drafted through a consultative process led by Norway and Argentina and was opened for endorsement at an international conference held in Oslo, Norway, in May 2015. 

“The Declaration has served as an effective tool for protecting students and educators from attacks perpetrated by armed forces and armed groups, since 2015. Since then, a significant majority of UN member states numbering 112 (more than half of all UN Member States), representing all regions of the globe including Nigeria, have endorsed the Declaration. 

By implication the 112 Member States have committed to protecting children and teachers in conflict situations, and to avoiding the use of schools and universities as military resources or fargets, thus contributing to preserving the civilian nature of these facilities Specifically, these Member States have expressed political commitment toensure the safety of civilians, preservation of the civilian character of

educational facilities, and the general protection of education from attack.

“Furthermore, by endorsing the Declaration, states have agreed to use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, a non-binding practical tool to deter military use of schools and universities, Member states also agree to support the efforts of the UN Security Council, the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict and relevant UN agencies.”

He said,”The aim of the Conference is to strengthen implementation of the Declaration by sharing good practice in implementing key commitments in the Declaration,to inspire other states to adapt the practice within their own context; forging global cooperation and strengthening coordination, in theprotection of education and deterring military use of schools and universities by bringing together Education, Defence, and Foreign AffairsMinistries, as well as multilateral and civil society organizations to discussprevention and response measures, and identifying actions which governments can take to better achieve accountability for attacks on education and justice for the victims by building and strengthening international and national legal mechanisms.”

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