A group of children are requesting that world leaders should deny armies access to schools and ensure paths to schools are free of mines and explosives, in a Children’s Manifesto launched on Monday in Abuja.
The Children’s Manifesto, authored by 300 children across 10 countries, is being launched as world leaders meet for the 4th International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration in Nigeria.
The Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children International Nigeria (SCI-Nigeria), Amanuel Mamo, said that for the first time, the conference is being held in Africa, a continent that has some of the highest rates of attacks on education in the world.
The conference is being co-hosted by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), of which Save the Children is a member, in cooperation with the African Union and the governments of Norway, Spain and Argentina.
The Children’s Manifesto paints a grim picture of how children face threats and violence while at school and focuses on the intense fears felt by children in response to these attacks.
In the Manifesto, the children write: “Children are scared -when armies come to schools, arrest children or fire life or rubber bullets at them and when tear gas is used; children are scared -when there are no shelters in their schools or when they are not big enough to protect everyone; and children are scared – when military equipment passes outside the windows of their schools or houses, and when they hear the sounds of explosions and gunfire, among others.
“Attacks on education and the military use of schools and universities increased by a third globally in 2020, according to data released by the GCPEA last month,” Mamo said.
In the same vein, Birgitte Lange, CEO of Save the Children Norway, said, “The Children’s Manifesto shows that not only are children being harmed physically, they are also being harmed mentally by these brutal and prolonged attacks.
“It is unthinkable that for many children, schools have changed from a safe place to learn to a terrifying place of violence.
“Save the Children’s new report from the Sahel also shows that recruitment to armed groups is a growing and alarming trend in the region and we see a clear link between this trend and closed schools and attacks on schools and teachers.”