UUK – Children’s Champions Day Blog

Since moving to London, I’ve found that 95% of my Saturdays have been entirely un-noteworthy consisting predominantly of binge watching Netflix and re-evaluating the way I make life choices, which is why it is so nice to be able to write about a Saturday where I actually did something worthwhile.

When Unicef first told me about the Children’s Champion training I’d envisaged a small group of people in a classroom being told the best way to hound their local MP into doing something to support children in less fortunate circumstances than our own.

It wasn’t that at all of course. The Safe Schools Declaration is a non-legally binding political commitment to protect schools from attack and a commitment to implement a set of guidelines to protect educational facilities from military use during conflict. The issue with militarising a school, even stationing soldiers there for protection, is that the school can then lose its civilian status and become a legitimate military target. Facts bear this sad truth out. In Syria 1 in 4 schools can’t be used, in South Sudan over 400,000 children have had to abandon the classroom. The magnitude of the issue is immense – Unicef estimates that 25% of the 250 million children living in conflict areas are out of school. 24 million children are being denied a future.

The Saturday training brought people from all over the country, all with the aim of encouraging the UK Government to sign up to this initiative. When the Unicef team first explained what the Safe Schools Declaration was, one question sprang to my mind: what possible reason could there be for the UK Government not signing up?

One could argue that since the UK Government doesn’t attack schools anyway, they don’t need to sign this. Fair enough, but then again, what would they have to lose by signing up to a non-legally binding commitment, if they do it anyway?

But more importantly, the UK is now far more reticent about sending troops abroad these days; and we increasingly use our armed forces to train other military forces in best practice. This gives the UK a huge opportunity to lead the way on an initiative that will help keep schools safe. Leadership on such an important issue is much needed, and leadership from the UK Government could make a big difference.

What can you do to help the UK Government sign the Safe Schools Declaration? To get involved, you can join UUK’s campaign here. Additionally, trying to set up a face to face meeting with your local MP, letter writing, e campaigns, social media and just telling your friends and family are all things you can do to help push this very important campaign forward!

My brother is 5 and the last time I went home he told me that penguins regurgitate their food for their babies. The excitement in his face when he was telling me about school and the enjoyment he gets from learning is something no child should miss out on. So that’s why I’ll be asking Harriet Harman to support the Safe Schools Declaration.

By James Bamford

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