The United Nations (UN) has charged the Nigerian government to safeguard education from attack, as schools reopen, to enable children, teachers and parents’ confidence in the system.
UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, said this counsel has become pressing in the light of COVID-19, which now affects 46 million primary and secondary learners across Nigeria due to pandemic-related school closures.
Kallon, who also conveyed the messages of UN top officials, spoke as the world marks the first-ever International Day to Protect Education from Attack, under the theme “Protect Education, Save a Generation”.
He noted that as state governments plan to reopen schools after prolonged closures, building a resilient education system to withstand future shocks should be included in pandemic response plans.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator affirmed that prioritising safety in schools for educators and learners is an indication of the government’s commitment to protecting investments in the education sector and a validation of Nigeria’s endorsement of the “Safe Schools Declaration”.
According to him, more than three million children in the conflict-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe in Northeast are in need of education-in-emergency support.
“Education is essential to helping crisis-affected communities in the Northeast rebuild and recover. Attacks on schools are a direct attack on future generations. I call on all parties to the conflict to take all necessary measures to protect education and give learners a chance to build a brighter future,” Kallon said.
The protracted conflict in the Northeast, he said, has had devastating impacts on education.
“From 2009 until December 2018, 611 teachers were killed and 910 schools damaged or destroyed. More than 1,500 schools were forced to close and some 4.2 million children in the Northeast are at risk of missing out on an education.
“Hundreds of girls have been abducted, some even from their own schools, which are meant to be safe zones. The attacks on schools, communities and education itself are tragic consequences of a protracted conflict that has left a generation of children traumatized,” Kallon said.
He quoted the UN Secretary-General António Guterres as saying: “As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, children and youth in conflict zones remain among the most vulnerable to its devastating impact. We must ensure our children have a safe and secure environment in which to learn the knowledge and skills they need for the future.”
Kallon stated that the global body vehemently condemned attacks on education, including abductions of school children, school-related gender-based violence, herders-farmers clashes, and repurposing of schools for use as isolation centres, IDP camps, markets or for military purposes.
The UN chief said if incessant attacks on schools and learners are left unchecked, they could reverse the gains on education investments made by the government of Nigeria, the UN and other multilateral, bilateral, and private sector partners over the years.
“Attacks on schools are a violation of humanity and basic decency. We must not allow these senseless attacks to destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation of children. We must do all in our power to ensure that schools and the children and teachers within them are protected.”Follow us on social media