Human Interest

10th anniversary of Chibok girls: UNICEF, UNIZIK proffer solutions for securing schools


By Our Correspondent

AS Nigeria marks 10
years since the mass abduction of Chibok girls in the Northeast, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and authorities of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka have proferred solutions for securing Nigeria’s educational institutions to avert such incidents.

No fewer than 90 girls of the abducted Chibok Girls Secondary School are still in captivity, even as the country is recovering from another abduction of school children in Kaduna State, which took place in March this year.

At the summit organized by UNIZIK Campus FM Radio in collaboration with the UNICEF Enugu Field Office, the world body called for intensified efforts to protect the country’s children, which it described as the most vulnerable population.

The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms Cristian Munduate, who was represented by Mr. Okezie Mkpa, said the kidnapping of the Chibok girls was a wake-up call to the severe risks Nigerian children face in their pursuit of education.

Munduate said: “Today, reflecting on this tragedy and other recent abductions, it is evident that our efforts to safeguard our children’s future must be amplified.

“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.

“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.

“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.
“UNICEF Nigeria is, therefore, calling on 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.”

She said they should also focus on the most vulnerable regions, address critical gaps in safe school infrastructure, as well as prepare for natural disasters, conflicts, and comprehensive approaches to violence against children.

She also called for the strengthening of law enforcement agencies and take security measures to protect educational institutions and communities from attacks and abductions.

The leaders, she advised, should prioritize education and child protection in national policies and budget allocations to create a safer, more inclusive environment for all Nigerian children and ensure the continuity of education and learning when schools are shut through multiple learning pathways such as radio and television programmes and through digital platforms like the Nigeria Learning Passport.

Munduate said UNICEF is working with the government to ensure that every child can access safe learning environments, adding that 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 of the country.

She added: “As we remember the Chibok girls and all children whose right to education has been compromised, let this somber 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”. In a paper delivered at the summit, the Dean of Students Affairs of UNIZIK, Professor Chinonso Achebe said abductions have continued in the country because there is leadership problem.

“If we have good leaders, our institutions would be properly secured. Safety costs money and there’s no amount of money spent on security that does not worth it,” he stated.

Also, the Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof Frank Collins Okafor observed that the event came at the right time when the nation is in confusion .

“It’s a pity that our schools are no longer safe with government officials keeping hands akimbo. Kidnapping has become so attractive because there’s no security in schools.

“Insecurity has thrived because of government negligence, plus the fact that suspected kidnappers have always been left off the hook as even known financiers are walking freely in the society,” Okafor said.

According to him, government is not proactive as it always waits until the abduction is done. He also identified compromise within the security forces, which he said, encourages kidnapping, as the kidnapped people pass through security checkpoints without being detected.

By Ifeizu Joe

Ifeizu is a seasoned journalist and Managing Editor of TheRazor. He has wide knowledge of Anambra State and has reported the state objectively for over a decade.

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