UNODC’s Initiative Promotes Education to Prevent Crime, Drug Use, Violent Extremism in Nigeria

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Bennett Oghifo

The United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched the Education for Justice (E4J) Initiative in Nigeria, which seeks to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities and materials designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
Already in 2015, the international community identified education as a crucial tool in preventing crime, drug use and violent extremism among youths. It is in this spirit that the Federal Ministry of Education and UNODC launched the E4J initiative.

A statement by the Communications Officer, UNODC Nigeria, Mr. Sylvester Atere said the overriding objective is to help educators teach the next generation basic values such as respect, integrity, fairness and empathy; making them more resilient against crime, violent extremist ideologies, and drugs, to help them better understand problems that can undermine the rule of law and to encourage students to actively engage in their communities and future professions in the promotion of a culture of lawfulness.

The statement said through the E4J Initiative, UNODC has been supporting Step Up Nigeria since 2018 to promote the fight against corruption with children’s books. In March 2019, the office in partnership with Facebook and African Teen Geeks organised a Hackathon for Justice providing young coders an opportunity to put their skills in the service of the promotion of the rule of law.

The E4J Initiative is part of UNODC’s Global Programme for the implementation of the Doha Declaration, which was launched following the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice with the support of the Government of the State of Qatar to help UNODC in assisting United Nations member states in turning their ambitious commitments into reality.

At the primary school level (6-12 years), E4J focuses on promoting and teaching values such as acceptance, integrity, respect and fairness. UNODC and its partners developed innovative materials and tools for children, animated series on the rule of law, a video game to tackle gender based violence. These tools will contribute to support learning on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goals 4, 5, 10 and 16.

At the secondary level (13-18 years), E4J focuses on providing practical and interactive educational materials such as board games and videos (hyperlinks) to promote the understanding of the basic concepts that lie at the core of UNODC’s mandate areas, including anti-corruption, counter-terrorism, crime prevention and criminal justice, organised crime, cybercrime, fire arms, and trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling.

This is achieved through a focus on ownership, behaviour, rights and responsibilities, aimed at empowering secondary level students to identify, prevent and resolve moral, ethical or legal dilemmas.
At the tertiary level (18+), E4J seeks to support tertiary institutions and academics in their efforts to transmit knowledge and create a deeper understanding of rule of law related issues. In order to do so, UNODC has already developed numerous university modules to assist scholars teaching on rule of law related issues such as crime prevention, organised crime, counter terrorism, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants or cybercrime.

Following the launch, UNODC will work with the Federal Ministry of Education, as well as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) towards promoting the integration of crime prevention and other rule of law related topics into the education curriculum at all levels, through the sensitisation of teachers, professors and policy makers and other stakeholders active in the education sector at Federal and State levels.

Acknowledging the importance of the E4J Initiative, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono, who was represented by the Director, Basic and Secondary Education, Mrs. Lami Amodu said: “I am particularly delighted that this initiative is coming up at a time when the government is embarking on programmes and activities aimed at steering the youths to the right direction and consciously promoting culture of obedience to the rule of law, integrity, honesty, complete abhorrence to a life of drug, crime and criminality.”

While expressing optimism about the positive impact of the intervention and pledging the ministry’s collaboration for the successful implementation of the programme, he said: “The E4J initiative is expected to leverage on the existing government programmes in order to achieve the desired result of equipping students at all levels of education with requisite skills, attitudes and values reorientation to enable them function effectively and optimally in the fast-changing world.”