By Joseph Erunke, Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said it had begun a partnership with the Federal Ministry of Defence on schools’ safety and security.
The global humanitarian organization explained that the partnership called “UNICEF & Save The Children” was aimed at committing the ministry to ensure that it handles the children and schools “in a manner that their security is ensured.”
“We are looking for ways in which issues concerning school safety and security can be mainstreamed into their strategic document”, Judith Giwa-Amu, UNICEF Education Officer responsible for Education in Emergencies Coordination at National Level, told newsmen in Abuja, at an event held ahead of the commemoration of the 2020 International Day For the protection of Education.
The partnership, Giwa-Amu further explained, was,” For them (Ministry of Defence) to be able to handle the children , the school in a manner that their security is ensured .”
“There is a fear that when the military are invited to protect the schools in the North East, we have the fear that by the time they go,non-state actors then look at the school as one that caters for the need of security in the school, we have fears that they will attack the school,” she further explained, adding that: “The safe school declaration is the one that has been signed by the 104 countries, Nigeria is among the 37 implementing countries.”
Noting that, “they have been identified as the major organs in charge of the implementation of safe school declaration,” she said the implementation guidelines were linked to the military”, explaining that it “recognises their role and the need to support education.”
“Security, education and humanitarian sectors are key sectors that must be engaged by all countries to the safe school declaration,” she declared.
The International Day For the protection of Education is a day set aside to review attention on the importance of protecting education, to ensure that a generation of children are saved. It is marked on September 9th of every year.
“We know that education is the acquisition of knowledge for use to support the socio-economic development of a nation.
“When you have children who are out of school, it is due to the reason that they are afraid or their parents are afraid and because of fear, their parents prefer them being alive than going to school. The next generation becomes an endangered species, where children experience gap and they can never make it up to other children in other parts of the world,” she stressed.
UNICEF and Save the Children collides education sector to commemorate the 2020 Sept 9th Day of Protection of education.
“In our relationship in education emergencies working group, we have found the need to partner with Ministries of Education, Defence and Humanitarian Affairs.
“We realise that the ministry of Defence has a great role to play. In countries of the world and in Nigeria, we know that education will not happen in some areas in the North East if the military is not physically present. However, we see that with military forces,it changes the civilian nature of a school,” she further said.
In a message, Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi, while thanking the organization, noted that: “Education is one of the most prized assets of a country.”
” It is so because it provides a solid foundation for the nation’s growth and development. Thus, the survival and future of a nation is threatened when her education is under attack,” he said.
While noting that forced recruitment of learners or school personnel into armed groups was a crime against a nation, the minister said: “No nation can sleep in the event of the continued attack on her education, likewise the Nigerian military shall not relent in our efforts to protect the integrity of Nigeria and ensure her continued existence and growth in safety and security.”
“We shall continue to make efforts to ensure that education is not stopped even in the face of conflicts, keeping in mind all necessary protocols and guidelines including the Safe Schools Declaration.
As Nigerian Military continues to step up efforts towards protecting our national assets including education. I call on communities, groups and individuals to avail us all necessary cooperation. It is in our togetherness that we shall protect education from all forms of attack and save a generation,” he added.