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By Igboeli Arinze

Despite their declarations in 2014 and 2015, and the agreement that there is need for policy makers and the would be authorities to ensure the protection of schooling and the education of our children and wards, it is safe to say that the Nigerian State is indeed miles apart from implementing either of the Safe Schools Initiative and the Safe Schools Declaration.

 

Following the disturbing kidnap of girl students at the Chibok Girl’s Secondary School, Chibok by members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and the outrage such an act generated all over the world, policy makers all over the world came together to figure out how best to ensure that children at schools are physically and psychologically protected from all sorts of attacks.

 

Since then, there has been countless attacks against students particularly those within the NorthWest and NorthEast regions of the country. Nigerians will in anguish remember the numerous attacks on the various schools in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in which over 3,500 children were alleged to have been abducted. Perhaps, seeking to emulate Boko Haram these new breed of terrorists have added attacks on schools to their activities seeking to embarrass the government in a manner similar to how the Chibok saga much embarrassed the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

 

Even recently, the Federal Capital Territory had to close all schools after it had received intelligence reports that terrorists were planning attacks on a number of schools within its region, this was immediately followed by Nasarawa State which owing to its proximity to the FCT did not want to be taken unawares by these terrorists.

 

One cannot imagine the trauma that has been visited upon these students , their teachers and parents, even in such events where these children have been returned, there are tales of horror as to what these children did go through in the hands of their captors, with many getting dissuaded from further attending school. On another hand in other states like Zamfara, schools were shut for over eight months, this again puts the education of these children on hold , stymieing their academic progress.

 

These are thus enough reasons for the authorities be it at the Federal, State and Local Government levels to give enough attention to the Safe Schools processes.

 

As schools are set to resume there ought to be a convergence of policies between the various authorities, the security agencies and the various communities towards ensuring that these schools and their wards within are protected.

 

There is need for these authorities together with the various institutions and agencies to critically identify issues and factors that may hamper its implementation. Factors such as lack of funding, scarce logistics, poor equipment and the issue of under policing can be identified as such critical factors.

 

Again, the apparent collapse of security and the spread of these violent attacks from the NorthEast region to the Northwest and now the North Central has also hampered one of the key policy initiatives which is to move students from regions of high risk areas to schools within safer parts.

Another component of the safe school initiative is the ensuring that children and wards displaced and are found in internally displaced camps continue to receive quality access to education despite their present predicament, I cannot ascertain for now if this major component of the Safe School Initiative is been implemented as a majority of stories received makes immense reference to the poor states of these camps, how the government intends to implement such a component in such poor states leaves much questions to be answered .

 

Last of these components is the initiation of the such safe school models in 10 schools each in the three most devastated states affected by the insurgent attacks, this too has largely not been implemented owing to issues such as funding, this is despite the budgeting of funds for its implementation, For example in 2021, the National Assembly earmarked over $20 million for its implementation funding proposed and budgeted for the initiative in February, 2021. Only to find out that the funds were never domiciled in the Ministry for Education which ought to have primacy over such funds in which together with the various states would have employed such funds to tackle the issue, prompting Senator Ahmed Lawan, the Senate President to declare that such an initiative was programmed to fail.
One cannot disagree with the Senate President and even if one wants to disagree the continuous attacks on schools in the North gives vent to such an assertion, this indeed is very sad.

 

With Nigeria having about 11 million pupils out of school, it is enough to say that we are already tinkering with fire amidst dry gun powder should we pay no heed to the issue of safe schooling . It is akin to leaving these children behind , children who’s only crime is their desire to get an education, its about time we sit up!

 

Igboeli is the publisher of Anambratimes.com

Tags : #IgboeliArinze#terrorismEducationSafe School

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