…lament deplorable infrastructure
…say happenings, an embarrassment to Nigeria
By Levinus Nwabughiogu-Abuja
Continued attacks and abductions of school children especially the female ones have put the education sector and the future of our wards under serious jeopardy, members of the House of Representatives said Thursday.
Speaking through the House Committee on Basic Education and Services, the members also lamented the deplorable infrastructure in various primary and secondary schools across the country, urging the state governments to wake up to their responsibilities.
A statement from the chairman of the House Committee, Professor Julius O. Ihonvbere who also represents the Owan Federal Constituency of Edo State stated that the invasions and unabating kidnappings of school children have constituted a huge embarrassment to Nigeria.
“The House Committee on Basic Education and Services has observed with great alarm the steady dislocation and deterioration of basic education especially in states that are badly affected by frequent kidnappings, Boko Haram and bandit attacks.
“This has compelled many state governments to shut down schools especially boarding houses. The invasion of schools has disrupted the school calendar, destroyed school infrastructure and properties, traumatized our children, scared off teachers and school administrators.
“The clear consequences of these attacks are that children are afraid to return to school, parents are uncertain if their wards would be safe in school, and teachers and administrators can no longer concentrate fully on their duties. Insecurity is now breeding a palpable fear for education in Nigeria.
“Without doubt, it is the view of our Committee that these happenings constitute a huge embarrassment to our nation. With the largest number of out-of-school children in the world, now, insecurity of steadily shutting down the school system in historically underserved communities. Even war-torn nations do not experience such levels and frequencies of attacks as they affect our schools.
“There are serious gaps in our state and federal policies on basic education especially school administration and safety.
“When school reopens, the girl child will be the biggest loser in this unfortunate development. Already suffering from all sorts of deprivations, many will not return to school and the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria will increase further.
“Government at all levels must begin to design new and sustainable policies and programmes to protect, encourage and keep the girl-child in school.
“The state of infrastructure in many of our schools all over the country remains embarrassing. The infrastructure at the Government Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State is just a sampler in the widespread neglect of the school and environment that our children are expected to live and study in.
“The basic education sector is under attack. Our children are under attack and our collective future is under attack. The consequences of the current disruptions will be evident very shortly unless urgent steps are taken”, Hon. Ihonvbere said in the statement.
Recalling that President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a shoot-at-sight order, the Committee however regretted that the vices have continued incessantly, even assuming a more disturbing dimension.
In a measure of admonition, the Committee called for new policies and strategies to give adequate protection to schools.
“Though the President has assured Nigerians that the Kankara kidnapping of school children was going to be the last in the country, announced a shoot-at-sight- order for anyone illegally in possession of AK47 rifles, and announced that kidnapers would face a very hard time, these horrible attacks have continued especially in Kaduna, Niger and Zamfara states unabated.
“The policies, while laudable, did not address the glaring deficits in basic education.
“The federal government continues to provide matching grants to all states and the Federal Capital Territory; yet, the situation is not improving. While more funding is urgently needed, the deployment of such allocated funds needs to be adequately monitored. The Committee is already embarking on a nationwide oversight activity on the utilization of matching grants received by States and the FCT in the last decade.
“It is amazing that basic perimeter fencing is no longer provided for schools. The Template on School Resumption in the COVID-19 period by the Federal Ministry of Education prescribed a single entrance and exit access to all schools. As is now obvious, our schools, save for a few, are very porous and it is easy for kidnappers, bandits, rapists, cultists, lunatics, drug dealers and traders of all wares to access the premises.
“There is clearly an urgent need for new policies in this area with states exploring novel ways to protect school premises.
We also note that our governments- local, state and federal, are yet to design and put in place a basic early-warning security facility that can transmit information from the school gate to the school head and to relevant security agencies as soon as there are signs of attack. This should be taken up as a matter of urgency. It is essential for all schools to develop an emergency response protocol to promote individual and collective safety.
“The Committee urges the Federal and State governments to design holistic strategies for involving the youth organisations, community groups, traditional and religious leaders in the design of ways and means of self-protection rather than sitting idly by when hundreds of our children are carted away on foot by bandits. Working with security agents the menace of these criminal elements can be curtailed”, the Committee stated.