DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY ON SAFE SCHOOL FUNDS, RENEWED COMMITMENT TO SAVE EVERY CHILD

By Vincess Okushi

April, 15th 2024 marks the 10th year innocent school children from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State were abducted and 91 of them are still in captivity.

Originally, 276 of them were kidnapped by unknown gunmen, while 57 managed to escape by jumping out of the vehicles when they were abducted.

In addition to this ugly incident, the country has recorded massive abductions in schools and communities, contributing to a high rate of out-of-school children, with 10.2 million at the primary level, and 8.1 at the junior secondary school level, representing 15% globally, according to UNICEF report.

It is disheartening to note that these are children who have the passion to change the narrative of living in abject poverty, thereby, taking the bull by the horns through education to guarantee a safer generation.

Sadly, their dreams and those of their parents and loved ones were cut short as a result of insurgency in the Northeastern part of the country.

However, the clamour for the safe return of these abducted children by civil society organizations, including Global Rights and other local and international activists led to the #BringBackOurGirls movement aimed at compelling the government and security agencies to adhere to the primary purpose of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as enshrined in section 14(2) (b) of the 1999.

A report signed by Global Rights Executive Director Abiodun Baiyewu on 15th April, 2024 highlighted that the nightmare of the mass kidnapping of students from schools, and abductions of women and girls by terror groups from their homes and communities since 2014 to date calls on all to renew the commitment of building a safe and secured environment in the country.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Chibok girls, it is pertinent that we collectively renew our commitment to ensuring that every child, regardless of their circumstances, has the opportunity to fulfill his or her right to education in a safe and nurturing environment.

Despite years of protests by citizens demanding accountability for the then-emerging insurgency in the region, sadly, not much has changed.

We are left to presume that they are either still in captivity or dead.

Since then, Nigeria has gone through several iterations of insecurity as the phenomenon has metastasised. Since the mass kidnapping of the Chibok girls, there have been at least 27 episodes of mass kidnappings of students from their schools across the country, with well over 1,863 students abducted in these incidents. This phenomenon is contextualized within the larger landscape of mass atrocities spread across the country.

She added that data by Nigeria Mourns in 2023 revealed that no fewer than 372 people were reportedly kidnapped, describing it as an alarming situation in the country despite efforts by international communities to end the menace. 

The kidnapping of the Chibok students continues to be emblematic of the disturbing pattern of insecurity and impunity that has plagued Nigeria for far too long. The government’s inability to ensure the safety of its most vulnerable citizens reflects a broader problem of lack of accountability and transparency in governance.

In response to the abduction of the Chibok girls, in May 2014, the Nigerian Government, along with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and Nigerian business leaders, launched the Safe Schools Initiative, which established the Safe Schools Fund with contributions totaling $20 million from both the government and the private sector. 

However, formal ratification of the Safe Schools Declaration by former President Muhammadu Buhari did not occur until December 2019, coinciding with the unveiling of a ₦144.8 billion Safe Schools Financing Plan in December 2022.

Despite the volume of funds invested in the project, schools in several communities across Northern Nigeria have been abandoned for fear of being targeted by terror groups, in addition to the over 1,800 students abducted between that time and now. 

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) schools’ vulnerability assessment conducted in 2021 in 81,000 schools revealed that 80 percent of schools across the country were porous. Presently, the National Safe School Response Coordination Centre (NSSRCC) reports that only 528 schools nationwide were registered with the center reflecting the abysmally poor implementation of the initiative.

The Executive Director, therefore, demands accountability for the remaining 91 Chibok girls and other students across the country held in captivity by terrorist groups by dedicating resources and efforts to locate and rescue them.

Accountability and justice for victims of the Federal Government College Buni Yadi massacre of February 2014.

Victim support: Comprehensive support and assistance to victims of abduction and their families. This support should include psychological support, access to healthcare, and educational opportunities.

Investment in education: The Nigerian government has continued to fail in its duty to provide free and secure education for all citizens as there is no excuse why 15 million children should be out of school. It had sufficient funding for the Safe Schools Initiative; what it lacks is the political will to do so. 

As such, it must account for this fund and its failure to invest in the nation’s greatest assets for the future – its children.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here