A report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday revealed that attacks and abductions of Nigerian schoolchildren have been on the rise since the kidnapping of 260 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, in the North East, 10 years ago.

It noted with regret that only 37 per cent of schools across 10 states so far have early warning systems in place to identify threats of such attacks in schools.

Presenting the report titled “Minimum Standards for Safe Schools (MSSS) Monitoring Report” at the United Nations House, Abuja, UNICEF Nigeria’s Chief of Education, Saadhna Panday-Soobrayan, noted that the journey towards ensuring every Nigerian child can learn in a safe environment is far from over.

The report read in part, “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, and more than 70 attacks on schools, according to verified reports by the United Nations.”

It also observed that 90 of the abducted schoolgirls are still in captivity while the country is still recovering from another abduction of schoolchildren in Kaduna State in March of this year.

Drawing from the findings of the report, UNICEF recommended that authorities at all levels intensify efforts to protect the country’s most vulnerable population—its children.

Speaking at the event, which was organised to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chibok abductions, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Ms. Cristian Munduate, said, “The kidnapping of the Chibok girls was a wake-up call to the severe risks our children face in their pursuit of education.

“Today, reflecting on this tragedy and other recent abductions, it is evident that our efforts to safeguard our children’s futures must be amplified. Given these alarming statistics, 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.

The monitoring report analysed six result areas, namely: strong school system, violence against children, natural hazards, conflict, everyday hazards, and safe school infrastructure, and uncovered significant disparities.

It found that in the implementation of safe school standards across Nigerian states, Borno State, with a 70 per cent fulfilment of the standards, exemplifies a strong commitment to child safety amidst adversity.

Yobe State also demonstrated promising progress. In contrast, Kaduna and Sokoto states lag significantly, with fulfilment rates at just 25 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively.

In addition to the findings on early warning systems and conflict, the report revealed that “while schools perform relatively well in terms of training school-based management committees on safety and responding to children’s well-being concerns, only 14 per cent of the participating schools across the 10 assessed states have functioning, safe, accessible infrastructure, and just 36 per cent have school staff trained on natural hazards.”

This analysis came to light on the heels of disturbing reports of violence affecting schools, with brazen abductions of students on the rise.

It also noted that “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.”

April 15, 2024

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