UN envoy unveils Nigeria safe schools plan

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ABUJA  (AFP) – UN special envoy for global education Gordon Brown on Wednesday unveiled a project to improve security in Nigerian schools to prevent a repeat of the mass kidnap of more than 200 girls by Islamist militants.

Nigerian business leaders have contributed an initial $10 million for the scheme, which would be implemented first in 500 schools in northern Nigeria, which has borne the brunt of insurgent violence since 2009.

“We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear of their daughters’ lives,” the former British prime minister said in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

“The education system that has the potential to transform Nigeria cannot be undermined. The Safe School Initiative will put Nigeria on track to help more and more girls and boys go to school and learn.

“The thoughts and prayers of the whole world are with Nigeria’s abducted girls and their parents as they face their fourth week in captivity.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa, Brown said the pilot scheme would identify and target the most at-risk schools, involve local communities, the security services and children themselves.

In time, school security guards and police would be introduced and measures such as rapid response plans worked out to react to threats or actual attacks on educational establishments, he added.

“This initiative is part of our work to give every girl and boy in Nigeria the opportunity to go to school. In the year 2014 every boy and girl should be at school and no one should be prevented from an education,” he said.

The mass kidnap of more than 200 girls from their school in Chibok, Borno state, on April 14 has provoked international outrage, stoked by threats from Boko Haram militants that the teenagers would be sold as slave brides.

Brown is set to meet Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan this week to discuss an international plan for what he said was “the largest school expansion in the country’s history to get out-of-school children into school”.

Jonathan will also receive a petition with more than 400,000 signatures calling on Nigeria to create safe schools, he added.

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