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Calls for Britain to join Safe Schools Declaration to protect education from bombs

A girl attends his first class immediately after they got registered at the school in Hazema North Raqqa, Syria August 21, 2017. Picture taken August 21, 2017. Source: Reuters/Zohra Bensemra

A rights group is urging the UK to join an initiative which aims to guarantee the safety of schools, students and teachers during times of war.

Human Rights Watch has launched a petition which calls upon UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to officially endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.

“The UK armed forces already have some of the world’s strongest policies protecting schools from attack and military use and can lead by example,” it said.

Some 69 countries have already signed up to the Safe Schools Declaration, which is an inter-governmental political commitment aimed at safeguarding the students and teachers and schools and universities in conflict zones, spearheaded by Norway in 2015.

“In many countries, armed conflict continues to destroy not just school infrastructure, but the hopes and ambitions of a whole generation of children,” reads the Declaration.

Countries that have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration include France, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.

Source: Human Rights Watch

The Declaration contains a number of commitments, including formally endorsing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict and implementing it into national laws.

Under the guidelines, schools should never be used by fighting forces towards a military effort.

Other commitments include providing assistance to victims of attacks, investigating instances of alleged breaches of national or international law and collecting reliable data on attacks against educational facilities or their use by military groups.

“Hundreds of thousands of children worldwide find their schools under attack or used by fighting forces to wage war,” said Zama Neff, children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Safe Schools Declaration provides a concrete way for countries to commit to protecting children’s education, even during armed conflict.”

The petition can be signed at Human Rights Watch’s website.

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