BY LAJU ARENYEKA
It was another tragedy at Chibok recently, when terrorists killed about 51 people and burned five churches to the ground.
The community had not yet recovered from the abduction of over 200 school girls by the Boko Haram sect barely three months ago. If Chibok could be attacked again, how can Nigerians be sure than more school students will not be abducted?
A quest to find the answer to this, led to the launch of the Safe School Initiative by President Goodluck Jonathan a start off fund of 3.2 billion Naira; 1.6 bn from the Government and the other 1.6 bn from the private sector.
It would be recalled that after a meeting on the initiative between President Jonathan, former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and governors from the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told reporters that the fund would help ensure that school children get educated in a safe environment. She said that a total of 100 million dollars was the targeted amount needed as take-off grant for the Safe School Initiative Programme by the Federal Government and the international community for Nigerian schools.
Brown, who represented United Nations Secretary General, Banki Moon on a special envoy to Nigeria said that the initiative would aim providing ‘fortification, telecommunications, security guards, and safety equipment as well as rebuilding vandalized schools.’
Reacting to the initiative, a retired Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav told Vanguard Learningthat ‘this is a very good and timely intervention. But the onus lies on its implementation.’ Tsav said: ‘There is a lot of corruption in the system; if all the people on board are not men of honour and integrity, then the moneys will just disappear into people’s pockets.’
Tsav also said that for the initiative to work, ‘All schools should have adequate number of trained security guards. We have so many unemployed youths;’ he said ‘more than enough to cover all the schools in this country if they are adequately trained and enumerated as security guards. But we have to keep paying attention to these issues. The Chibok girls have been missing for nearly three months. They still have not been found. If they were children of Ministers, the President or any high ranking official, they would have been found by now.’
The National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign, Mr. Hassan Soweto on the other hand argued that ‘the project in itself seems flawed from the very beginning.’ Soweto said: ‘It is this fire brigade approach that we keep adopting every time there is a problem in this country. The process of setting up a new initiative once there is a crisis is the normal behaviour of our Government.
Not just in education, but in other sectors as well. Schools have been collapsing long before Boko Haram activities began. And when Boko Haram ends, there will be still a lot of decay in the schools. We need a more proactive and more sensitive approach to deal with the insurgency.
We must also look at the root causes; unemployment is a major challenge in the country, so is poverty. If these issues are not dealt with, the safe school initiative will just be another avenue to steal government funds.’
More and more money is being pumped into the Safe School Initiative, as more and more, students in Northern Nigeria attend school in fear.