By Joyce Remi-Babayeju
Amid the unsafe learning space in Nigeria, the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, have called on the Nigerian. Government to provide a safe and secured learning environment for children.
UNICEF made this called today in a statement to mark the eight year anniversary of of the kidnap of some 276 School girls from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.
The global agency frowned at the high rate of out of school children especially the girl child and called for an increased enrolment of girls in schools, their retention and completion of their education, noting that the spate of attacks on schools occasionally results into deaths.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins said” ,Today marks eight years since the first known attack on a learning institution in Nigeria on April 14, 2014 in which 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, in North-East Nigeria, were abducted by a non-state armed group.”
“Since then, a spate of attacks on schools and abduction of students – sometimes resulting in their deaths – has become recurrent in the last two years, especially in the North-West and North-Central regions. Since December 2020, 1,436 school children and 17 teachers have been abducted from schools while 16 school children lost their lives.”
“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”, Hawkins noted.
According to him, the attacks on learning institutions render the learning environment insecure and discourage parents and caregivers from sending their wards to schools, and the learners become frightened to the pursuit of learning.
“The invisible harm school attacks inflict on the victims’ mental health is incalculable and irredeemable,” as girls had particularly been targeted, exacerbating the figures of out-of-school children in Nigeria, 60 percent of whom are girls, he stressed.
The global agency recalled that in Nigeria, 11,536 schools were closed since December 2020 due to abduction and security issues, adding that such school closures have impacted the education of approximately 1.3 million children in the 2020/21 academic year.
“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 perpetuate cycles of poverty and inequality.”
UNICEF said that with funding from donors, it is collaborating with the Nigerian government to protect children’s right to education in a safe and inclusive learning environment.
This involves building the capacity of school-based management committees on school safety and security and strengthening community resilience”, the statement added.