THE National Commission for Refugees, Immigrants, and Internally Displaced Persons, NCFRMI, recently announced plans to enroll more Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in schools in parts of the country with significant IDP populations.
Speaking during a recent visit to the Local Education Authority, LEA Primary School, Gwarimpa, Abuja, where she monitored the progress of some internally displaced children enrolled in the school, the Deputy Director, IDPs, at the Commission, Fatima M. Daura, said plans were also underway to set up educational facilities in IDP camps to cater to the educational needs of children displaced by insurgency.
According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN-OCHA, Boko Haram insurgency affects over 17 million people in the Lake Chad Region. More than 2.2 million have been displaced, half of them children. The majority are in Borno State, the epicentre of the insurgency. Of this number, 80 per cent are women and children, and one in four are under the age of five.
It is noteworthy that a one-year old child at the outset of the insurgency in 2009 would be about 11 years old now, while a five-year old child then would now be about 16. No doubt, growing up without education portends a bleak future for displaced children. They may grow into resentful adults and become vulnerable to recruitment by insurgents and other criminal gangs.
Article 15 (1) of the Child Rights Act (2003), which incorporates and domesticates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights clearly provides: “Every child has the right to free, compulsory and universal basic education and it shall be the duty of the Government in Nigeria to provide such education.”
It is unfortunate that the NCFRMI, which was established through Decree 52 of 1989, a full twenty years before the coming of the Boko Haram insurgency, did not show enough vision in establishing enough shelters with educational and health facilities around the country to cater for people (especially children) displaced through no fault of theirs.
It is a failure of their core mandate that children under government protection would spend upward of ten years in IDP camps with little access to formal education.
However, it is never too late to start a good policy. We hope the NCFRMI will make good its plan to expand educational opportunities for displaced children. As insecurity and population displacement increase around the country, we must strongly factor our children in the IDP camps into our educational and health plans.
We urge the NCFRMI to enlist the support of public-spirited individuals and international humanitarian groups to strengthen this initiative. Our children must be given sound basic education even if they unfortunately find themselves in IDP camps.