*Requests government action on safe school declaration
The Women’s Advocacy, Research, and Documentation Center (WARDC) has expressed disappointment that governments have not taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of educational institutions around the country.
To guarantee full compliance and the safety of children in schools across the country, the organization has urged the government to see to the implementation of the Safe School Declaration (SSD).
Yesterday, at an inaugural meeting with stakeholders on the effective implementation of safe school policies in Nigeria organized by WARDC in partnership with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), WARDC Executive Director Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi made the plea.
In 2018, Nigeria took action to address the issue of insecure educational environments by adopting the Safe School Declaration.
Remember too that the government signed and announced a N144.8 billion Safe Schools Financing Plan in the latter days of 2022, with the intention of putting it into action between 2023 and 2026.
The government claims that this plan will work in tandem with the NPSSVFS, the National Policy on Safe and Secure Schools and Violence-Free Learning Environments, adopted in 2021.
Akiyode-Afolabi pointed out that schools have been targeted by non-state armed groups and that the armed forces have been known to fire on schools in response to security incidents, despite the safe school proclamation not yet being completely implemented in the country.
The lack of effective answers from governments, she argues, makes the problem seem insurmountable.
And this, she said, is despite the fact that her country has signed the Safe School Declaration (SSD), a legally binding law that domesticates the SSD and encourages effective implementation, enforcement, and accountability.
She pointed to three issues that prevent the Safe Schools Declaration from being fully implemented in Nigeria.
She cited a lack of a costed plan (roadmap) to implement the SSD, a lack of a legislative framework to actualize the SSD, and a lack of awareness, capacity, and network among stakeholders and the general public as examples of these.
She went on to say, “School Security is beyond bombing and abduction of school children, some schools are built close to filing stations, some in remote areas difficult to access, and in some their only form of security can be best described as a gateman as he can do little or nothing in the time of crisis.”
Schools and other places of education across the country have been under heavy fire from non-state armed groups and have also been targets of military forces reacting to security incidents with live ammunition.
However, after signing the Safe School Declaration, a legally binding document domesticating the SSD that will promote effective implementation, enforcement, and accountability, the situation still appears intractable due to the lack of suitable solutions by the governments.
Public awareness of the SSD has remained consistently low over the years. Schools are not following the protocols established by the SSD, and its implementation has not been completed.
Afolabi argued that “there is no way we can have a secured school if it is not appropriately financed,” because of a lack of effective and coordinated partnership between the government, CSOs, and other relevant stakeholders on implementing the SSD programs and consequently low budgetary allocations and low demand for accountability from the government.
Abiola Sanusi, Federal Lead for the Partnership for Learning for All in Nigeria Education (PLANE), has voiced his dismay about the absence of information regarding attacks on schools, arguing that this creates a significant barrier to accountability.
According to Sanusi, “some schools in Ondo were attacked recently and most people are not aware, so also some students in Niger states have been away from school and no one is asking questions.”
Since many parents are now opting not to send their kids to school due to fear for their safety, it is imperative that we take steps to ensure the safety of our nation’s educational institutions.
Jennifer Nwokedike, a Senior Programmes/Grant Officer at WARDC, stated that the organization’s goal with this project was to increase the number of people who are talking about and taking action related to the SSD’s implementation.
According to Nwokedike, the initiative will increase the capacity of stakeholders to demand the creation of a legal framework to promote the implementation of the SSD, and it will also encourage the government to create a cost/financially sustainable plan for implementing the SSD at the state level.