…As Non Governmental Organisations Give State-to-State Shocking Narrations
By Samson Yaki
The programme, which was part of the follow up on safe schools’ initiative of the African Union, an intervention on girls’ education, was organised by the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), in collaboration with the Education in Emergency Technical Working Group, and UNICEF.oncerned by the growing insecurity, particularly incessant attacks by bandits and Boko Haram insurgents, which is threatening the survival of all citizens in different parts of the country, particularly schools and students, over 40 civil society organisations from the country’s six geo-political zones recently converged in Abuja for a 3-day training on schools’ safety, security, and building resilient systems.
The training was funded by Ford Foundation as part of its international support to improve education, girl child access to education and schools’ safety initiatives.
While declaring the training open, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Eng. Sunny Echono, said ensuring safe schools is a national priority that the federal government is taking seriously.
Echono urged Civil Societies to take the step-down training with all the dedication required, congratulating the civil society groups for their contributions to the successful completion of the 4th international conference on safe schools’ declaration.
“Permit me to thank the development Research and Projects Centre, Ford Foundation and the Education in Emergency Technical Working Group for putting together the workshop as part of the post-conference intervention,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary, who was represented by Uchenna Uchenna, said globally, civil society organizations are recognised as important non-state agents of development saddled with multi-faceted responsibilities to complement government efforts.
The Executive Director, dRPC, Dr. Judith-Ann Walker, in her welcome address, lamented the situation where parents are refusing to send their children to school due to rising insecurity.
Dr Judith regretted that reluctance and hesitancy of parents to send their children to school because of insecurity and different forms of threats have been identified as some of the causes of failure in the efforts to train the girl child in school.
She emphasized that, “we, at dRPC, partnership is our secret, and this has been made possible by the support of Ford Foundation, which is our Chief funder. Apart from the support that we enjoy from the Ford Foundation, our robust relationship with the Federal Ministry of Education, Civil Society Organizations that we work in synergy with, largely contribute to our successes in achieving our objectives of ensuring the safety of our children in schools”.
She urged the participants to discuss and find solutions to the attacks on schools and how if deliberate and committed efforts are not taken, Nigeria’s girl child will be left behind.
While urging the participants to discuss and bring out solutions that would help eliminate threats to school safety, she said only safe schools will ensure quality education, improved enrolment and completion rate of education.
While describing the training as timely, Dr Giwa, coordinator, Education in Emergency, UNICEF, disclosed that UNICEF was grateful for this collaboration between the dRPC and the Ford Foundation to bring civil society groups across the 36 states of the federation to learn about the decisions and recommendations of the AU summit on girls’ education in Africa. Dr Giwa who stressed that it is the right of the children to be educated said both governments and parents must ensure that no matter the situation, children must go to school to be trained to contribute in the development of the country.
Dr Giwa said 30,000 teachers have been targeted in Nigeria to be educated and empowered to protect our schools and their constituents from any kind of existential threat.
“To achieve this, Dr Giwa said CSOs from 89 countries of the world have been mobilized to come and share their experiences with us”.
While calling for concerted efforts to ensure schools are safe, he said Nigerian children face the grievous challenges of insecurity, poverty, and lack of access.
He added that it is imperative for civil society to strengthen their advocacy voices to ensure schools are safe.
On her own part, Dr Abiola Sanusi, the Senior Policy and Strategy Adviser, Global Coalition to protect schools, called on the Civil Societies to improve their advocacies to protect Nigerian schools and pressure governments at the federal and state levels to invest in schools’ protection, intelligence gathering, and parents’ involvement to ensure education continuation in Nigeria.
In a traditional way, the Sarkin Yakin Gagi, Alhaji Sani Umar Jabbi, Advisor to the Sultan of Sokoto on Health, challenged the Civil Society Organizations to double their efforts and to increase vigilance in ensuring schools are protected and Nigerian children are given the opportunity to be educated.
The three-day training was designed to increase the knowledge base of CSOs on the 4th international conference on safe schools’ for transfer to community levels, enhance the capacity of the CSOs to transfer and demonstrate knowledge, skills and practices on safe schools, and support CSOs to mount advocacy to state governments and State Universal Basic Education Boards to scale up safe schools initiative.
Highlights of the occasion were presentations by various states experiences of different forms of abuses and negligence on Nigerian educational system.
From Kebbi State Dr. Fatima Adamu expressed the disappointment of parents in Kebbi State over the abduction of over 50 female students of the Yawuri secondary school.
She called on the Kebbi state government to engage parents and to brief parents on the situation of their children.
‘As I am talking to you now, many school children are still with the bandits and they refuse to negotiate with us insisting that they will only talk to the government,” she said.
Another instance came from a representative from Sokoto state who said the son of the special adviser to the governor of sokoto state is now languishing in prison for pornography, for exposing the nakedness of his girlfriend on the internet.
According to the report, the governor didn’t intervene but allowed the law to take its course.
In the account, when the mother of the girl in question approached the SSG for justice, he told the mother of the girl that she should be happy and thankful that the daughter was not pregnant. With a very high determination, the lady was ready to ensure justice against the boy. She instituted legal action against him which she eventually won. Faced enough shame, against all odds but won her case, and the girl is now happily married. The mother of the victim now advocates that mothers should support their children at all cost, when they find themselves in this kind of situation, face the immediate shame for a better future.
Also from Delta State, a son of former SSG was sentenced to life imprison for killing two girls.
Another shocking story from Niger state, has it that a certain JSS 3 student who had not reached the age of puberty always use rags to form artificial breast. When caught she gave no tangible explanation on why she did that. Insinuations were that she had been subjected to ridicule by her peers for not being a complete woman.
Report from Borno state had it that an old Baba who was a gateman in a particular school was caught violating girls in Maiduguri, and the law today has caught up with him as he is currently serving 17 years jail term.
In zamafara state, Commenting on insecurity in the state, the Executive Director CommuniAid Foundation, Dr Abdullahi Maiwada, who is also Jakadan Gusau, lamented that out of the 1500 schools in the state, only about 200 are secured by fence. All the remaining 1300 are porous, without fence or any kind of infrastructure; thereby leaving the students at the mercy of bandits and kidnappers.
In Lagos State a controversial case was narrated on how a girl lied against her father that he abused her and the father was imprisoned for three years before she confessed that it was a lie. According to her the father was strict on her and wanted to be free like other girls. Hence she hatched a plan to lie against the father. Perhaps she didn’t know the outcome was going to be severe.
The CSOs unanimously concluded that in a school setting, all members of the teaching and non- teaching staff are responsible for the children’s safety and well-being.