By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday, called on relevant authorities in Nigeria to make schools safe and provide a secure learning environment for every child in the country, especially for girls to increase enrolment, retention, and completion of education.
The UN Agency recalled that today marks eight years since the first known attack on a learning institution in the country on April 14, 2014 when 276 students at Government Girls Secondary School Chibok in North-East Nigeria were abducted by a non-state armed group.
It noted in a statement that since then, a spate of attacks on schools and abductions of students, sometimes resulting in the deaths has become recurrent in the last two years, especially in the North-West and North-Central geo-political zones of the country.
The statement signed by the agency’s communication specialist, Samuel Kaalu, revealed that since December 2020, a number of 1,436 school children and 17 teachers have been abducted from schools, with 16 of the 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,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
Hawkins added, “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,”
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria explained that the invisible harm school attacks inflicted 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,” said Hawkins.
He further recalled that a total of 11, 536 schools in the country were closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues with the school closures impacted on the education of approximately 1.3 million children in the 2020/21 academic year.
This interruption of learning, according to him, contributed to gaps in children’s knowledge and skills and leads to the loss of approximately $3.4 billion in these children’s lifetime earnings, thereby further perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.