Five things you need to know this week about global education
Child soldiers, Children in conflicts, Early childhood development, Safe Schools Declaration
Our roundup includes 50 children wounded in a car bombing, G20 leaders backing education and a pledge to stop using child soldiers in Syria.
Car bomb kills schoolgirl and injures 50 children in Kabul
One girl was killed and more than 50 Afghan schoolchildren injured in a massive car bomb attack by the Taliban that damaged five schools.
The students were hit by flying glass in their classrooms from the explosion in the capital Kabul, the education ministry said. The eight-year-old girl who died was named as Feroza by her father, who said she wanted to become a doctor.
Social media images taken at a hospital showed wounded children in school uniforms and still holding their textbooks as they arrived for treatment.
The attack was condemned by the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba. She said: “I am appalled by this attack in which boys and girls have been killed and maimed, a result of blatant disregard for basic rules of war such as the protection of children and safe havens in the conduct of hostilities. Children should be entitled to safety at all time, especially when at school or at home,” she said.
Theirworld has also been campaigning for years for the right of all children to be given a safe, quality education – free from fear of conflict and violence. Now 90 countries have signed up to the Safe Schools Declaration – a commitment to safeguard education from violence – and many are clamping down on the military use of schools.
Theirworld’s report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis revealed there were more than 14,000 armed attacks on schools across the world over the past five years and the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan led to the closure of over 1,000 schools by the end of 2018.
The rush-hour Kabul attack was followed by gunmen storming a building and triggering a gun battle with special forces which lasted several hours. The five terrorists killed six people and injured 105 before they were killed themselves.
G20 leaders' backing for education is welcomed
A commitment by world leaders to invest in quality education for every child has been welcomed by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the global fund dedicated to strengthening school systems in developing countries.
The G20 Osaka Leaders’ declaration emphasised the importance of education in helping the most marginalised and vulnerable children and building sustainable development. It said early childhood development was crucial as “the basis of every child’s health, well-being, learning outcomes and earning potentials”.
The declaration also said: “We commit to continue support for girls’ and women’s education and training, including providing quality primary and secondary education, improved access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and raising awareness toward eliminating gender stereotypes.”
Alice Albright, CEO of the GPE, said she was pleased to see the G20’s support for investing in education systems and its emphasis on “building inclusive and adaptable education systems and services that include planning in anticipation of crisis, conflict, trauma and violence”.
Syrian group pledges to end child recruitment
A Kurdish-led armed group fighting against the Syrian regime has agreed to stop recruiting child soldiers.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) signed an action plan with the United Nations to end and prevent the recruitment and use of anyone under the age of 18.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main group within the SDF, has been listed in the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict for the recruitment and use of children since 2014.
Some children will be trained for and participate in armed combat, while others will be given a supporting role. In almost all cases child soldiers will not have access to formal education.
500 schools attacked or occupied in Yemen
More than 500 schools in Yemen have been attacked or occupied by military forces in the past five years, a UN report has revealed.
Thousands of children were denied education because of the occupation of 258 schools and attacks 244 schools between April 2013 and December 2018. Two million children are not in school due to the ongoing conflict.
The conflict in Yemen also led to over 7,500 children being killed or injured by airstrikes, shelling, ground fighting, mines and unexploded ordnance or suicide attacks, according to the second report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
More than 3,000 children were recruited by armed forces – almost 2,000 of them by the Houthi rebels who are battling the government.
Nutrition crisis leaves 2m children facing bleak future
A big increase in undernutrition – lack of energy and nutrients – means two million children under the age of five in Afghanistan are unlikely to fulfil their potential.
Good health and nutrition are crucial if young children are to get the best start in life and go on to do well at school and beyond.
But under-fives in Afghanistan continue to be affected by conflict and poverty.
“Proper nutrition during the first 1,000 days, from a mother’s pregnancy until a child’s second birthday is crucial to the wellbeing and development of any child,” said Sheema Sen Gupta, Acting Representative, UNICEF Afghanistan, at a global nutrition event.
The UN children’s agency said the current estimated number of acutely malnourished children under five is two million – a 28% increase compared with 2018.