Teachers who teach western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students…” Abubakar Shekau, Leader of Boko Haram.
It is believed 121 million children are out of school globally, 21 million of which live in conflict zones. In the West where we place so much emphasis on the value on gaining an education, we often take for granted our ability to do so unhindered by war and conflict.
Children living in fragile or conflicted-affected countries however are twice as likely to be malnourished, three times as likely to miss primary school and almost twice as likely to die before age 5 compared to children in other developing countries. Furthermore, the humanitarian and developmental fallout from the military occupation of schools has predictably been devastating.
Some reported attacks on schools have included killings, disappearance, abductions, forced exile, imprisonment, torture, and maiming, laying of landmines around schools, and destruction of educational buildings and materials. Whether for use as bases and barracks, defensive and offensive staging areas, weapons and ammunition storage, or for the illegal recruitment of children soldiers, the presence of military groups in schools endangers and undermines the education students receive.
MIGS is honoured to invite Brenda Haiplik from UNICEF, Zama Coursen-Neff of Human Rights Watch, and Diya Nijhowne from the GCPEA to help make sense of the consequences of these attacks, and the role that establishing “safe schools” can play in protecting students.
The conversation will cover 1) methods of prevention, 2) ensuring actor compliance, 3) reacting to emergencies, and 4) rehabilitating students after the fact.
Zama Coursen-Neff is the executive director of the children’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. She leads the organization’s work on children’s rights and chairs the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Coursen-Neff also conducts fact-finding investigations and is the author of reports and articles on a range of issues affecting children, including access to education, police violence, refugee protection, the worst forms of child labor, and discrimination against women and girls. She has published on op-ed pages in major international and US publications and speaks regularly to the media. During a sabbatical in 2006/2007, she ran a protection monitoring team for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Sri Lanka. Before joining Human Rights Watch in 1999, Coursen-Neff clerked for a US federal judge, advocated on behalf of immigrants and refugees in the US, and worked with community development and women's organizations in Honduras. She is a graduate of Davidson College and New York University School of Law.
Diya Nijhowne oversees management of all the Coalition’s research operations and program implementation. She has over a decade of experience working on children’s rights and protection issues, including in emergency contexts. Diya served as a Child Protection Worker in Canada investigating child abuse allegations. As a Program Officer with Global Rights, an international non-governmental organization, she built the capacity of local organizations to protect human rights, designing and implementing programming for women and minorities in Afghanistan and Nepal. In 2008, following the post-election violence in Kenya, she served as a Child Protection Officer with UNICEF, developing protection strategies for internally displaced children. In 2011, she held a similar position with UNHCR in Ethiopia, managing a camp for Somali refugees and developing registration and tracing procedures for unaccompanied children. Diya also worked at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a Children’s Rights Consultant, and developed advocacy strategies to promote the women, peace, and security agenda within the UN. Diya has a Master of Social Work degree and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Toronto.
Brenda Haiplik, Senior Education Advisor- Emergencies, at UNICEF in New York joined the Education Headquarters Team after working in several UNICEF country offices including in Sri Lanka (Chief of Education), and previously in both Pakistan (Emergency Education) and Somalia (Formal Education). Brenda has also worked for Save the Children and BRAC (Bangladesh) as an education specialist and has been a primary teacher in a variety of contexts. She holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching and Learning with a specialization in Comparative, International and Development Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.