TimeTestedNews ||Chibok: UNICEF advocates united efforts to protect child education

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has advocated for unity of purpose by families, communities and the government to protect child education in the face of rising insecurity around schools 10 years after the abduction of Chibok girls in Borno State.

UNICEF lamented the negative impacts of incidents of abduction and kidnapping of school children to the child esucation in Nigeria, regretting the rising statistics of out-of-school children due to incessant cases of abduction of school children in some states across the country.

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Speaking during the Chibok 10th anniversary commemoration held at Tahir Guest Palace in Kano, Michael Banda, Senior Education Manager, UNICEF Kano Field Office, who was also the officer-in-charge at the occassion, representing the UNICEF Chief of Kano Field Office, Mohammed Rahama, also stressed the need for concerted efforts towards the fight against climate change, as part of endeavours to stop school abduction and ensure security in our schools across the country.

Banda also posited that the spate of insecurity will reduce drastically  if Nigerian government puts more efforts in making its teeming population productive, just like China and India did.

He also frowned at religious and cultural ideologies that discredit innovative educational policies that promotes mass enrolmenent of children into schools, particularly, the girls, and called for more orientation and campaigns by religious andbtraditional rulers encouraging children enrolment into schools and adequate protecrion of schools children.

Speaking to journalists after the event, the Commissioner for Higher, Technical and Vocational Education in Katsina state, Prof. Abdulhamid Ahmed blamed porous borders as part of the causes of insecurity in the state, but assured that government has taken adeqaute measures to ensure security of lives and property, particularly, the safety of school children.

He said that apart from providing enough logistics for security agencies, Governor Dikko Radda recruited thousands of youths across communities in the state to help fight against banditry, kidnapping and other forms of insecurity in Katsina state.

He said all the schools from primary and tertiary instutitions in the state are well secured with fence and one gate and security post manning them.

The Commissioner of Higher Education, Science and Technology of Jigawa state, Dr. Isa Yusuf also told journalists at the event that Jigawa has remained safe for school children due to efforts put in place by Governor Umar Namadi to secure lives and property in the state.

According to him, the state government created synergy and good working relationship among security agencies in the state who always work with one mind to fight any form of insecurity across tge state.

He said tge Safe School initiative launched by the Federal Government is also helping tremendously to enwure security of school children in the state.

Student leaders who spoke at the event, with one voice, called on the Federal Government to put more efforts towards the rescue of remaining Chibok girls, hoping that government will soon find lasting solutions to the problem of insecurity bedevilling education of children and youths in the country.

However, in a Statement made  available to our Correspondent on Monday, Susan Akila, Communication Specialist, UNICEF, Abuja, quoted Ms. Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria as  urging for action to secure children’s education in Nigeria.

According to her, new UNICEF report shows that just 37 per cent of schools across 10 states have early warning systems in place to identify threats, such as school attacks

She added that:  ” As Nigeria marks 10 years since the mass Chibok abductions in the Northeast, 90 girls remain in captivity, and the country is recovering from another abduction of schoolchildren in Kaduna state in March of this year. UNICEF is calling for intensified efforts to protect the country’s most vulnerable population—its children.”

According to her, UNICEF has released the ‘Minimum Standards for Safe Schools (MSSS) Monitoring Report,’ revealing a stark reality: the journey toward ensuring every Nigerian child can learn in a safe environment is far from over.

“Most notably, the report shows that just 37 per cent of schools across 10 states have early warning systems in place to identify threats, such as school attacks.

“The kidnapping of the Chibok girls was a wake-up call to the severe risks our children face in their pursuit of education,”  she said.

According to her,  “Today, reflecting on this tragedy and other recent abductions, it is evident that our efforts to safeguard our children’s futures must be amplified. Given these alarming statistics, we must address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of this crisis. Education is a fundamental right and a crucial pathway out of poverty. Yet, for too many Nigerian children, it remains an unattainable dream,” the Statement said.

She  further stated that analysis looked at six result areas – strong school system, violence against children, natural hazards, conflict, everyday hazards, and safe school infrastructure – and uncovered significant disparities in the implementation of safe school standards across Nigerian states.

” Borno State, with a 70 per cent fulfilment of the standards, exemplifies a strong commitment to child safety amidst adversity. Yobe State also demonstrates promising progress. In contrast, Kaduna and Sokoto states lag significantly, with fulfilment rates at just 25 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively.

“In addition to the finding on early warning systems and conflict, the report shows that while schools perform relatively well in terms of training school-based management committees on safety and responding to children’s well-being concerns, only 14 per cent of the participating schools across the 10 assessed states have functioning, safe, accessible infrastructure and just 36 per cent have school staff trained on natural hazards.

“The analysis comes on the heels of disturbing reports of violence affecting schools, with brazen abductions of students on the rise. In the last 10 years, conflict-related violence has led to more than 1,680 children abducted while at school and elsewhere; 180 children killed due to attacks on schools; an estimated 60 school staff kidnapped and 14 killed; and more than 70 attacks on schools, according to verified reports by the United Nations.

” The threat of abduction of students is severely affecting children’s learning. As of 2021, over one million children were afraid to return to school, and in 2020, around 11,500 schools were closed due to attacks, according to Policy Weekly by Nextier,”  she  said.

UNICEF Nigeria  called  for the government, partners, and the international community to take decisive action to: ensure all schools across all states have the resources and tools to fully implement the Minimum Standards for Safe Schools, focusing on the most vulnerable regions; address critical gaps in safe school infrastructure, preparedness for natural disasters, conflicts, and comprehensive approaches to violence against children.

UNICEF Nigeria  also stressed the need for government to strengthen law enforcement and security measures to protect educational institutions and communities from attacks and abductions; prioritize education and child protection in national policies and budget allocations to create a safer, more inclusive environment for all Nigerian children.

She  further stated that government should  ensure the continuity of education and learning when schools are shut through multiple learning pathways such as radio and TV programmes and through digital platforms like the Nigeria Learning Passport.

According to her, UNICEF is working with the government to ensure that every child can access safe learning environments.

She said  the agency has supported the inauguration of state safe school steering committees and the drafting of state-costed implementation plans for safe schools in 13 states. It also provides school grants, safety kits, training, and awareness raising to accelerate the implementation of the Minimum Standards for Safe Schools. “As we remember the Chibok girls and all children whose right to education has been compromised, let this sombre anniversary serve as a catalyst for change. However, we must acknowledge the recent abductions, which underscore the persistent vulnerability of our schools. To ensure that schools are safe havens, strong political will and proper implementation of safe school standards are essential. Together, we can restore trust between educational institutions and the communities they serve, ensuring schools are sanctuaries for learning and growth,” said Munduat.