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UN Representative Pushing for Safe Schools


Bring Back Our Girls campaigners in Nigeria

Bring Back Our Girls campaigners in Nigeria


From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

A United Nations representative wants international support for programs aimed at helping 28 million boys and girls return to school. The children are unable to continue their education because of wars and crises around the world.

Gordon Brown at UN announcement of Safe Schools Initiative

Gordon Brown at UN announcement of Safe Schools Initiative

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is the UN’s Special Envoy for Global Education. Mr. Brown says schools were once safe places for children. Now, he says, they are increasingly becoming instruments of war. In the past five years, there were more than 10,000 attacks on schools.

Mr. Brown told the United Nations recently that the international community should spend money to make schools safer. He proposed creation of an international humanitarian fund for education in emergencies.

“It is our moral duty to make sure that every single child in the world can enjoy the basic right to education - free of terror, free of fear, and with the support of the international community.”

Mr. Brown is thinking about new uses of technology to improve school safety. A pilot program has been launched in Pakistan. Three months ago, the Pakistani Taliban killed 140 children at a school in the city of Peshawar.

A funeral prayer for a student killed in the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

A funeral prayer for a student killed in the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014

Pakistani officials are now working with Predictify.Me, a technology company based in the United States. Under the “Pakistan Safe Schools” program, schools will use new computer software to test their safety plans. The results of the testing will help school officials prepare better for emergencies.

Mr. Brown said it is a major step forward in a country where more than five million children do not go to school. More than 1,000 schools have been destroyed in the past five years in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, which includes Peshawar.

The technology will make it possible to learn what schools and governments are doing to prevent attacks on schools.

The UN representative also called for the release of the more than 200 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants. The girls were taken one year ago from a school in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok. He said more than 10 million children are out of school in Nigeria. Nigeria has the highest number of children who cannot attend school of any country.

The UN’s Safe Schools initiative has collected $30 million for protecting Nigerian schools. One way it helps young people get back to learning is by sending students to different schools. Students who attend schools in the areas where Boko Haram is active are moved to schools in safer areas.

Syrian boys at camp for displaced in Aleppo

Syrian boys at camp for displaced in Aleppo

The Syrian conflict has kept three million children out of school, many for several years. Five hundred thousand of them are refugees in Lebanon.

Gordon Brown is working with the Lebanese government on what has been called a “double shift” plan. Under the plan, Lebanese children would attend public schools in the morning and Syrian children would attend the same schools in the afternoon.

Mr. Brown said it is time for the international community to wake up and deal with the problems facing children. He said the world should protect their rights and stop turning its back on these young victims of war.

I’m Jill Robbins.

VOA’s Margaret Besheer at the United Nations prepared this story. Dr. Jill Robbins wrote it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

pilot - adj. done as a test to see if a larger program, study, etc., should be done

initiative - n. a plan or program that is intended to solve a problem

shift - n. a group of people who work together during a scheduled period of time

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about the Safe Schools Initiative? Is there a problem with school safety where you live? How would you protect the school children in your community? Write to us in the comments section.

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