By Marie-Therese Nanlong
As school children get set to resume academic activities this month, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF has disclosed that at least one million children would not report to schools in Nigeria due to insecurity in their communities.
UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins who made this known in a statement noted that “learners are being cut off from their education and other vital benefits schools provide,” even as “families and communities remain fearful of sending children back to their classrooms due to the spate of school attacks and student abductions” in the country.
According to him, “As more than 37 million Nigerian children start the new school year this month, at least one million are being left behind – afraid to return to school due to insecurity.
“A child’s first day of school should be an exciting event for parents and children – a landmark moment in their young lives, signalling new learning and new friends that will impact their futures. This moment is being stolen from around a million Nigerian children this year, as insecurity threatens their safety and education.”
Mr. Hawkins added, “It is unacceptable that communities should be worried to send their children to school over fears they will be abducted from what should be a safe space. It is unacceptable that children need to fear returning to their friends and classrooms – and that parents are afraid that if they send their children to school, they may never return.
“This insecurity must end so that children can return to their normal lives and benefit from all the important things being in school brings to them.”
He further disclosed, “So far this year, there have been 20 attacks on schools in Nigeria, with 1,436 children abducted and 16 children dead. More than 200 children are still missing.
“The first day of school is a landmark moment in a child’s life—setting them off on a life-changing path of personal learning and growth. Most of us can remember the excitement of returning to school, and the joy of meeting our teachers and fellow students again.
“But for so many Nigerian children whose education already suffered during COVID-19 lockdowns, that important day has been indefinitely postponed – and for many children still missing, it is unclear when they will ever come back home or enter a classroom again.”
The UNICEF Representative maintained, “For the most vulnerable children – including children affected by conflict, girl children and children with disabilities – their risk of never stepping into a classroom in their lifetime is skyrocketing. We need to end this insecurity and make our priorities clear – that Nigerian children can and must be allowed to benefit from an education in a safe space.
“We must put our children’s future first. We can and must tackle the insecurity, stop attacks on education, and keep schools open. The clock is ticking for our young students.”