Education is a basic human right, enshrined in law all over the world. Yet in 2009, 67 million children were not enrolled at school – 42% of them in poor countries affected by conflict. Human Rights Day on December 10 is an occasion to remember the importance of defending the right to education, especially during armed conflict.
As we found in the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education, violent conflict can have devastating effects on countries’ education systems, making it even harder to reach the Education for All goals that were established in 2000.
During the civil war in Bosnia, for example, snipers targeted schoolchildren in Sarajevo as part of a wider strategy to break down community life and force ethnic displacement.
As we stated in the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report, there is an urgent need for more regular, reliable and robust reporting on attacks against schools, schoolchildren and teachers, especially given the growing prominence of education as a target. Only limited and disjointed data are currently available. There have been several efforts to fill the information gaps. But for the right to education to really be defended, what is needed is a reporting system that systematically and comprehensively records, analyses and corroborates reported attacks, identifies those responsible and evaluates efforts to prevent and respond to such attacks.
Whether the right to education is threatened directly, or is restricted by other human rights violations, ensuring access to education is a necessity for ensuring other human rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, education “creates the voice through which rights can be claimed and protected”. As the NGO Right to Education says, “If people have access to education they can develop the skills, capacity and confidence to secure other rights”.
In order to do so, people must be aware of their rights. Education is one way, but there are other creative ways of doing this. One campaign, launched by UNESCO and Poster for Tomorrow, spreads the message that every person has the right to education through words and images in a poster competition. The top ten posters can be seen in this video: