UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for efforts to protect the right to education in his message for the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.
Education is a fundamental human right and "an essential driver for achieving peace and sustainable development," the top UN official was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
Unfortunately, this right continues to fall under attack, especially in conflict-affected areas, he said.
"Classrooms must remain places of peace and learning," Guterres noted.
In 2020 and 2021, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack reported over 5,000 assaults and cases of military use of schools and universities.
And more than 9,000 students and educators were killed, abducted, arbitrarily arrested, or injured, the majority of whom were women and girls.
"These attacks deprive millions of vulnerable learners from accessing education and increase the risk of sexual violence and child recruitment by armed groups. They must stop immediately," said the UN chief.
Guterres welcomed steps taken by many countries to protect educational institutions and urged "all member states to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration."
"International law and international humanitarian law obligations must be respected. We must pursue monitoring, investigate all attacks and hold perpetrators to account," he said.
In marking the international day and in the lead up to the Transforming Education Summit, which will be convened at the UN headquarters in New York from September 16 to 19, Guterres encouraged everyone to "act together to guarantee safe education for all."
Attacks on education and military use of schools increased by one-third in 2020 compared to 2019, and maintained the same rate in 2021. Six attacks on education or incidents of military use occurred each day.
Explosive weapons were used in around one-fifth of all reported attacks on education during the reporting period, according to the United Nations.
The International Day to Protect Education from Attack, which aims to raise awareness to preserve education and protect it from attacks, is observed on September 9 every year.