Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The federal government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have expressed commitment to stop all forms of attack on educational facilities in Nigeria.
The commitment towards ending violence in schools is coming on the heels of the country securing $20 million for accelerated emergencies funding for the North-east region from Global Partnership (GPE).
They both expressed their commitment at the maiden commemoration of International Day to Protect Education from Attack held in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, yesterday.
Speaking at the occasion for the federal government, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, said the government recognizes access to quality education as a fundamental human right of every child, and has put in place many policies and programmes aimed at expanding access to quality education for all children irrespective of their religion, tribe or socioeconomic circumstances.
According to Echono, “In spite of these, many Nigerian children are denied this fundamental right due to the incessant attacks on our educational facilities.
“When school facilities are attacked, learners and teachers are abducted, killed or maimed, and schools are closed, millions of children are denied access to quality education.”
He lamented that “this inhibits our national growth and development as a country,” stressing that “but we are committed to stopping all forms of attack on our educational facilities. This was why Nigeria endorsed the Safe School Declaration (SSD) as evidenced by the letter signed by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on March 8, 2018.”
The permanent secretary noted that the $20 million accelerated emergencies funding for the Northeast would complement the efforts of the Borno State Government, which is a humanitarian partner, towards providing quality education in emergencies to conflict-affected children in the region.
On it is own, UNICEF urged the government at all levels to prioritise the safeguarding of children and education institutions.
The international organisation said armed conflict, occupation of schools by military, gender-based violence, lack of gender-segregated latrines and sanitation facilities in schools will constitute an affront on the rights of children to education.
The UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Borno State, Mr. Maulid Warfa, while commending the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for its support for education programmes in North-east region, lamented the impact of armed conflict on children living in the region.
He bemoaned that children mostly bear the brunt of neglect of the education sector.
Warfa said: “Any country that fails to protect children and their rights to education will eventually be covered in dark clouds. I know this because I had to flee from my village in my country when I was only seven years. I lived in a refugee camp almost throughout my teenage years.
“Children are the most vulnerable population, and education is the most vulnerable institution that must be protected. As UNICEF, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Borno State Government and other development partners to push the agenda to ensure that children are safe and learn in safe and conducive environments.”
In his address, the state Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, said the state is building more classrooms to accommodate out-of-school children in the state.
Zulum, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Education, Hon Bello Ayuba, said the Ministry of Education and the state Universal Basic Education Board have been directed to launch programmes that will lead to the enrolment of out-of-school children.