· Canvasses secured learning environment for children
· Says 11, 536 schools closed down same period
Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi and Francis Sardauna in Katsina
No fewer than 1,436 school children have been abducted in Nigeria, mainly North-central and North-west, in the last two years, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has revealed.
UNICEF, also, revealed that at least 16 school children lost their lives to different non-state armed attacks in the federation while 17 teachers were kidnapped from schools.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins revealed these figures in a statement issued yesterday, calling governments across the federation to make schools safer and more secure.
Since December 2020, according to Hawkins, 1,436 school children and 17 teachers have been abducted from schools, and 16 school children lost their lives.
He said: “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. Their occurrences cut short the futures and dreams of the affected students.
“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,” Hawkins said.
He noted that the invisible harm school attacks “inflict on the victims’ mental health is incalculable and irredeemable. Girls have particularly been targeted, exacerbating the figures of out-of-school children in Nigeria, 60 percent of whom are girls.
“It is a trajectory which must be halted, and every hand in Nigeria must be on deck to ensure that learning in Nigeria is not a dangerous enterprise for any child, particularly for girls.”
In Nigeria, Hawkins explained that a total of 11, 536 schools “were closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues. These school closures have impacted the education of approximately 1.3 million children in the 2020/21 academic years.
“This interruption of their learning contributes to gaps in children’s knowledge and skills and may lead to the loss of approximately $3.4 billion in these children’s lifetime earnings. This risks further perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.”
He explained that UNICEF, with generous funding from donors, was 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, Hawkins explained that 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 local government areas 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. In Katsina State, the government and communities have fenced some schools.
“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
“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,” Hawkins explained.