The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) says one thousand, four hundred and thirty-six school children and 17 teachers have been abducted from schools, and 16 school children lost their lives since December, 2020.
UNICEF therefore, calls on the authorities in Nigeria to make schools safe and provide a secure learning environment for every child in Nigeria, especially for girls, to increase girls’ enrolment, retention, and completion of education.
This was contained in a statement from the UN organisation marking the eighth year since the first known attack on a learning institution in Nigeria on 14 April 2014, in which 276 students at Government Girls Secondary School Chibok in north-east Nigeria were abducted by a Non-State Armed Group.
The statement pointed out that since then, a spate of attacks on schools and abductions of students, sometimes resulting in their deaths, has become recurrent in the last two years, especially in the north-west and north-central regions of Nigeria.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins was quoted as saying that unsafe schools, occasioned by attacks on schools and abduction of students, are reprehensible, a brutal violation of the rights of the victims to education, and totally unacceptable, stressing that their occurrences cut short the futures and dreams of the affected students.
Hawkins further said, attacks on learning institutions render the learning environment insecure and discourage parents and caregivers from sending their wards to schools, while the learners themselves become fearful of the legitimate pursuit of learning and that the invisible harm school attacks inflict on the victims’ mental health is incalculable and irredeemable.
He also said that girls have particularly been targeted, thereby worsening the figures of out-of-school children in Nigeria, with girls making up 60 percent.
According the UNICEF Country Representative, a total of 11, 536 were closed since December 2020 in Nigeria, due to abductions and security issues, impacting the education of approximately 1.3 million children in the 2020/21 academic year.
He also said the interruption of children’s learning in Nigeria between 2020/21, contributes to gaps in children’s knowledge and skills and may lead to the loss of approximately 3.4 billion US Dollars in the children’s lifetime earnings, further worsening cycles of poverty and inequality.
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“UNICEF, with generous funding from donors, is collaborating with the government of Nigeria to protect children’s right to education in a safe and inclusive learning environment. This involves building the capacity of School-based management committees (SBMCs) on school safety and security and strengthening community resilience.
“In Katsina State,300 SBMC members have been trained, and schools, supported through the Girls’ Education Project (GEP3) funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK, have developed Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans to mitigate the impact of potential and actual threats.
“Multi-sectoral task teams on school safety have also been established across all the 34 LGAs of Katsina state to provide timely and efficient networking among actors on school security, with particular focus on the safety of girls. Additionally, 60 Junior Secondary Schools have developed emergency plans and tested the plans in evacuation drills.”
According to Hawkins, “In Katsina State, government and communities have fenced some schools, and this is encouraging girls to attend school, underscoring the reality that collaboration is required in addressing insecurity in schools and making schools safe, especially for girls,” said Hawkins.
“Although Nigeria has ratified the Safe Schools Declaration, schools and learners are not sufficiently protected. Unless greater attention is given to protecting children, teachers and schools, they will continue to come under attack. Urgent, coordinated action is needed to safeguard the right to learn for every child in Nigeria.”