Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, calls for regional action on attacks on education in West Africa

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The president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, came together with guests at the UNESCO HQ in Paris on Friday 9th September to mark the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, where leaders from the education and development world gathered together to discuss tangible solutions to rising attacks on education.

While citing education as “the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” and acknowledging that “we cannot eliminate poverty if citizens are uneducated”, he reminded audiences that “if we do not act now some half of the world’s current population will not have the skills they need” for the future.

While highlighting the particular problem of attacks on education across West Africa, he called for three courses of action on a global scale – to enhance advocacy for action to garner political will; to underline political commitment, particularly through the establishment of regional coalitions for action so momentum is transformed into action; and by mobilising finance, calling on parties to support diverse funding channels and make education a national priority.

According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), global attacks on education are on the rise, with African countries particularly affected. There were more than 5,000 documented attacks on education between 2020-2021, with more than 9,000 students and educators abducted, arrested, injured, or killed. DRC, Mali, and the State of Palestine were the countries most affected, while Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Nigeria also witnessing an increase. The military use of schools and universities more than doubled.

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of the global education foundation Education Above All (EAA), who performed a key role in the observance of the third International Day, underlined the importance of using innovative methods learned during the pandemic to reach out of school children, and urged the global community to move the conversation forwards – “in the absence of international action, how do we move the global needle?”, she asked, citing the need for concrete action to hold perpetrators of attacks on education to justice.

Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Children and Armed Conflict, reinforced the message that “politicians should match political principles with action”, and called on nations to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 2601, which was passed last year and reaffirms the right to education and calls on states to provide protection. She also underlined the key role of data in tackling the scourge of impunity. “Data collection to inform policymaking is fundamental…data on grave violations informs the Secretary General every year to list or not list parties for attacks on schools and to take relevant action”.

Today will see the unveiling of the Track Attacks on Education (TRACE) Data Portal, a new tool designed to fill a global gap for reliable quality data created by a partnership between the EAA, UNESCO, KoBo Toolbox and in close collaboration with GCPEA and the QCRI. TRACE, an easy to use, single point, open access portal will collect, visualise, and provide curated analysis of data on attacks on education, generating reliable, timely data on attacks on education to be freely shared.

Participants and contributors to this year’s observance, titled ‘Act Now to Protect Education from Attack,’ included H.H. Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of EAA, SDG Advocate; His Excellency Nana-Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana; Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations; Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO; Her Royal Highness Maria Teresa, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador; Catherine M. Russell, UNICEF Executive Director; Virginia Gamba, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education; Yalda Hakim, Australian broadcast journalist, news presenter; Rosario Diaz Garavito, CEO of The Millennials Movement.

The International Day to Protect Education from Attack was established in 2020. Co-organised by EAA, the Qatar Mission to the United Nations, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UNESCO and the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, the observance brought together global and UN leaders, youth advocates, policy makers and academics to discuss how to protect education and build sustainable peace.

EAA’s appeal to the global community comes as part of its three-year #UniteToProtect global campaign to end education on attacks through the collection of data on attacks as a basis for evidence generation, accountability, grassroots advocacy and sustainable peacebuilding.