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Banditry, kidnapping in schools endanger Nigeria’s future, UN warns

. 10 million children out of school

. 1.3 million impacted by attacks, abductions

The United Nations (UN), yesterday, warned that the rising incidence of kidnappings and banditry being experienced in Nigerian schools pose a great danger to the country’s future.

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, raised the alarm in a statement on the 2021 International Day to Protect Education from Attack, commemorated every 9 September.

Kallon said: “Attacks on schools are direct attack on the future generation; it is traumatic for the children, undermines their individual dignity, and sometimes leads affected families to withdraw them from education entirely.”

He therefore urged governments at national and sub-national levels “to do more to protect schools from attack and to ensure that teaching and learning is safe and conducive in all schools in Nigeria.”

To underscore the urgency of the situation, Kallon said: “With over 10 million children already out of school, conflict has aggravated the situation and deeply affected education and the prospects of many young people, especially its most vulnerable ones.

“In the last academic year, it is estimated that 1.3 million children have been impacted by attacks or abductions at schools in Nigeria.

“Across the north-east region alone, over 600,000 children remain out of school, and some 1.1 million need educational support to stay in school. This has all been compounded by the setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

The UN chief further noted that, “Whenever teaching and learning is disrupted, the impact on human capital development is enormous as the recovery period is always tortuous and longer than the length of the initial disruption.”

Children are traumatised; parents are scared; teachers and school administrators are afraid; attacks on schools are gradually spreading to areas not known to insurgencies.    

Experts believe that education, though number four on the list of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is central to the realisation of all the 16 other SDGs and their targets, as every single one involves some levels of learning.

For the benefit of doubt, the UN said: “Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility and is a key to escaping poverty. Over the past decade, major progress was made towards increasing access to education and school enrolment rates at all levels, particularly for girls.”

It however regretted that “… more than half of all children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics.”

The organisation on its global website, also said that by April 2020, close to 1.6 billion children and youth were out of school, while “nearly 369 million children who rely on school meals needed to look to other sources for daily nutrition.”

It attributed the development to the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, which impacted more than 91 per cent of students worldwide, as a majority of countries announced the temporary closure of schools.

“Never before have so many children been out of school at the same time, disrupting learning and upending lives, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised. The global pandemic has far-reaching consequences that may jeopardize hard won gains made in improving global education,” it said.

In the case of Nigeria, Kallon said: “Children are traumatised; parents are scared; teachers and school administrators are afraid; attacks on schools are gradually spreading to areas not known to insurgencies.”

As a result, he charged the Federal Government to fully put into practice commitments made in 2019 during the first anniversary of the day, to review progress made in implementing safe schools under the declaration, and take decisive action to protect education from attack and give the children the chance to fulfil their promise.  

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