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All over the world, educators are urgently calling on their governments and on the international community for a diplomatic resolution to the escalating conflict in Ukraine, the immediate and full protection of the human rights of the people of Ukraine including their right to education, as well as for the safety of education facilities and personnel to be guaranteed.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine in 2014  and subsequent  occupation of Crimea, education has been the target of military aggression by Russian armed forces and their proxies. According to UNICEF, before the invasion on the 24th February, over 500 schools in eastern Ukraine  were destroyed and over 350,000 children were out of school due to the conflict. [1] Today, more than half of children in eastern Ukraine live in poverty and are suffering from multiple deprivations due to the occupation. Since the latest invasion, hundreds of schools and kindergarten have been shelled. According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) over 210 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed, since the invasion of the Ukraine began on February 24. The nationwide closure of schools and education institutions has affected the entire school-aged population – 5.7 million students between 3 and 17 years old, and more than 1.5 million enrolled in higher education institutions.[2]  It is clear that the Russian army is deliberately targeting the social infrastructure of the country to achieve the physical and socio-psychological destruction of Ukrainian society.

These blatant violations of the right to education are utterly unacceptable and alarming. Education must remain a safe sanctuary, forming and building sustainable and peaceful societies.  The right to education and the duty of states to protect schools as safe spaces are affirmed in the international Safe Schools Declaration which emerged in 2015 in response to attacks on students, teachers and schools by armed militias and state armies. To date, 114 countries have signed this Declaration, including Ireland and Ukraine.

The Irish Forum for Global Education is joining in the call by the Global Campaign for Education for an immediate end to the attacks on education facilities, teachers, and learners. [3] We support its call for the international community to:

  • Give priority to the logic of dialogue over military intervention and support a just and comprehensive process of peacebuilding and reconciliation.

  • Welcome and protect the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refuges and to provide open access to children and young people in the national education systems of host countries.

  • Uphold the values of democracy and justice over war, murder, and attrition.

  • Continue peace talks between the Russian and the Ukrainian government as only through democratic dialogue can conflicts be solved and human rights, including the right to education, be effectively-respected, protected, and fulfilled.