Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning Activities
Interview with H.E. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations
Q. Your Excellency, in 2019, Nigeria ratified the Safe School Declaration and developed several initiatives to improve security in schools to limit disruptions to students' learning. Yet, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to reverse the progress made to keep students, especially girls and women, safe from harm. What effort is Nigeria implementing to create safe learning environments for children in areas where schools have been closed because of unsafe and unhealthy conditions?
A. Permit me to start by thanking you for your commitment to education. As a teacher by profession, education is my primary constituency. I am encouraged to see that despite the setbacks occasioned by the pandemic, organisations like yours have sustained the momentum on the issue of education.
As for Nigeria, education is always a priority for everybody; from the family unit to the level of public policy. Education is the most assured guarantor to break the cycle of poverty as well as the promotion of national development. It is in this regard that amidst the challenges of insecurity in parts of the country, the government undertook the Safe School Initiative. The kidnap of over 200 girls from their school in Chibok town in 2014, stirred the urgency for the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria.
In line with the three components of the initiative; these are the transfer of vulnerable learners in violence-affected communities to safe areas and boarding schools in states not affected by violence, the initiation of the safe school model in 10 schools in each of the three states most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency; and the provision of high-quality education to children affected by the conflict and living in camps for Internally Displaced Persons.
To follow through with the Safe School Initiative, the government has developed a national policy on safety, security and violence-free schools. The government is also collaborating with civil society through the Education in Emergency Working Group Nigeria. Here we have a Safe School Declaration Committee comprised of representatives from the government, UNDP and Civil Society. This sub-committee is tasked with the responsibility of raising awareness and monitoring the implementation of the Safe School Declaration in Nigeria.
So far, the Initiative has resulted in better fortification of schools, as well as better communication with communities. These have led to higher enrolment numbers in places where children had hitherto abandoned formal learning. Provisions are underway for night illumination of schools, communication devices, development of safety manual and skills, as well as the promotion of safe zones for education. Here I refer to the relocation of over 2,000 students to safer schools, training teachers to conduct safety drills for their students and deployment of civilian security personnel to protect schools.
United States of America