The UK and Nigerian Governments must “act decisively” to protect schools from terrorist attacks and prevent further abductions of schoolchildren, according to signatories of an urgent Safer Education petition.
The petition, launched today by four international human rights groups, highlights the persistent failures of lawmakers to help Nigerian students fulfil their potential. It urges the Nigerian Government to implement fully the Safe Schools Declaration – not just a commitment in word but a commitment in deed.
Since December 2020, Nigeria has witnessed 12 armed attacks on educational establishments in which over 1100 students have been abducted for ransom and at least seven have died. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that at least one million students could miss school this year due to the rise in mass school abductions and insecurity.
From 25-27 October, Nigeria will be hosting the Fourth International Conference on the Declaration in Abuja. The petition, which calls for concrete action to safeguard students and educational establishments, echoes the Conference theme of ‘Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice.’
“Every child in Nigeria deserves a safe education, without fear of violence or abduction”, said Ayo Adedoyin, Chief Executive of PSJ-UK. “We are calling on the UK and Nigerian Governments to do all they can to protect schools from terrorist attacks, prevent the abduction of schoolchildren, promote support for mobile school units for displaced students, provide aid to vulnerable communities throughout the country and to hold those responsible for violations accountable.”
Baroness Cox, Founder President of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), said: “Boko Haram and other terrorist factions continue to target schools. They kill teachers and students. They also carry out mass abductions for ransom, demanding exorbitant sums from desperate parents. Public and private institutions are targeted, including Islamic establishments and schools belonging to Christian denominations. In some instances, state and federal authorities have paid these ransoms; however, in Kaduna state, parents are obliged to incur vast debts due to the governor’s refusal to pay further ransom.”
Mrs. Ronke Adeagbo, The Founder and Chief Executive of IA-Foundation said: “The Nigerian government needs to increase schools budget to ensure schools have appropriate ‘state of the art’ security infrastructure, that would make students less vulnerable to attacks.”
Mervyn Thomas, Founder President of CSW, added: “The Nigerian authorities have responded to the rash of attacks on schools mainly by closing them. This is a blunt instrument that ensures the safety of students at the expense of their education. Instead, schools in areas vulnerable to terrorist attack – especially northern states and the Middle Belt – must be better protected. School should be a safe space for students to learn, and to fulfil their potential, even during conflict.”
Notes to editors
- The public petition was launched on 27 September and is available to view here: https://csw.e- activist.com/page/90511/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=oo
- It is co-signed by four human rights groups: Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART); International Organisation for Peacebuilding and Social Justice (PSJ-UK); IA-Foundation; and CSW.
- Nigeria is among 111 states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD), an inter- governmental commitment to protect students, teachers, schools and universities from the worst effects of armed conflict.