By Michael Eboh
The Federal Government, Wednesday, stated that it is currently in consultations with stakeholders in the educational sector to develop a national policy on safety and security in schools across the country.
The Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, stated this at a one-day national dialogue on safety and security of schools in Nigeria, organised by Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, in conjunction with the United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF, in Abuja.
Adamu, who was represented by Assistant Director, Basic and Secondary Department in the Ministry Of Education, Mr. Ernest Udoh, disclosed that this became necessary, because the country currently does not have a national policy to guarantee safety and security in schools nationwide.
This is coming on the heels of the attack on a school in Yobe state by insurgents and the alleged kidnap of 90 female students of the school.
It was also in view of the kidnap of the Chibok girls, as well as abduction of students of some schools in Lagos.
Also speaking on Executive Director, WARDC, Mrs. Abiola Afolabi, lamented that despite government’s efforts, threats to safe and secure schools still exist today, not only in the North East but all over Nigeria.
She also stated that the challenge of poor policy direction on issues of security and safety in schools is a major concern in need of urgent intervention.
She said, “Some of the reasons are beyond obvious security such as crowded classrooms and hostels, single doors in classrooms and hostels, little or no security personnel, lack of perimeter fencing, absence of clear labelled entry/exit points and muster points amongst others.
“Acknowledging that government bears the main responsibility for the education of students, each and everyone of us has a role to play in ensuring that students learn in a safe, secure and conducive environment.
Afolabi disclosed that schools in many parts of the country had been left porous and unprotected as safety and security had not been prioritised or in some cases utterly neglected.
She argued that the flawed policy design and direction about schools’ safety and security gave rise to situations whereby even in the face of threats over a long period of time, no security measures were made for adequate protection of schools and pupils in schools.
“There is also low community support and ownership of schools by communities in which they are located. In the face of threats, it is not unusual that communities resort to self-help and form vigilante groups for collective protection.
“These communal efforts are rarely extended to the schools which are thus left more vulnerable as the communities take it for granted that such schools are government properties and therefore responsibility of the state to provide protection for the schools,” she noted.
She further bemoaned the fact that responses so far to the challenge that has made schools unsafe and insecure for children in Nigeria has been mostly gratuitous and therefore not sufficient.
However, Afolabi averred that with the support of UNDEF, the safe school project has promoted community dialogue and stakeholder engagement on safe and secure schools.
She noted that through a participatory approach, it has built capacity of schools, communities and civil society to engage authorities on school security and safety programs; design and establish early warning systems; and the adoption of minimum standards/guidelines and plan of action for safe and secure schools and implementation of safer school initiative in the target states.
She said, “Our work with schools and communities from Kaduna North, Kaduna South and Zaria with the support of UNDEF, have led to the development of standards/guidelines and plan of action for safe and secure schools which are the minimum requirements for all schools in regards to safety and security.
The Safe School Alliance is therefore the creation of a platform made up of schools, communities and civil society organisations to push for a more safe and secure school for our children as contained in the guidelines. We have launched in the three states safe school alliance which will be the driving force in states ensuring that schools adopt initiatives on safety and security.
“They will engage policy makers and also create awareness through community radio programs and other sensitization activities. Today meeting is to see what can be done at the National in this regard.”