Fresh facts have emerged on the level of implementation of the federal government’s Safe School Initiative since its inception in 2019 when former President Muhammadu Buhari signed its Declaration Ratification Document.
Investigation by LEADERSHIP revealed that the scheme, largely implemented by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), had covered 21,000 schools of the 80,000 identified as vulnerable to attacks by bandits, terrorists and kidnappers.
Even though the figure of the schools yet to be covered is high, NSCDC, the driver of the programme, has assured Nigerians that it is fully committed to ending the frequent attacks on schools and kidnapping of school children in the country.
LEADERSHIP had exclusively reported yesterday that 1,591 schoolchildren and 61 corps members had been kidnapped in Nigeria since 2014 when terrorists first abducted 276 students from Chibok, Borno State.
While most of the kidnapped victims have regained their freedom unhurt, some are still in captivity, like Leah Sharibu who was taken away in the Dapchi Secondary School mass kidnapping in Yobe State; one student from Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna; students in Damishi town of Chikun local government area, Kaduna, and three of the eight corps members recently kidnapped on a highway in Zamfara State, among others.
In fact, some of the Chibok girls are yet to be liberated from their captors.
The Safe School Initiative, a collaboration among Nigeria, the United Nations and global education advocates, seeks to create an environment where students can learn and grow without fear.
In the interview with LEADERSHIP, NSCDC director of media and public relations, CSC Babawale Afolabi, said the corps would stop at nothing to provide the needed security in schools to enhance a safe teaching and learning environment.
He said the agency had been organising workshops nationwide, seeking to harvest inputs and suggestions from host communities and co-stakeholders, which would be processed to effectively commence the initiative.
He also listed co-stakeholders in the Safe Schools Initiative programme to include the ministries of finance and education, the Nigeria Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.
The federal government in 2021 expanded the role of the NSCDC to include the deployment of personnel to protect schools and educational facilities, following persistent attacks by bandits and insurgents.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had in November 2021, in a report titled: “Children in West and Central Africa Among Those Who Suffer Highest Rates of Grave Violations in Armed Conflict’, announced that a total of 25 schools in Nigeria were attacked, while 1,440 students were abducted in the same year.
Afolabi said, as the lead agency in the discharge of the Safe School Initiative Project, the commandant-general, Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi, ordered the decentralisation of Safe School Initiative training nationwide.
He said the decentralisation was to ensure the training got to the local government areas, where many of the affected schools are as well as to allow the participation of some members of the host communities.
Afolabi said in May 2021, the corps conducted a vulnerability survey of all schools in the country and published the statistics obtained for necessary action, where it discovered that over 60,000 of the 81,000 schools are vulnerable and without any form of protection.
According to the NSCDC spokesperson, the Corps Female Squad was a child of necessity borne out of the need to effectively curtail the upsurge occasioned by banditry, kidnapping, insurgency and the need to effectively implement the government’s proposed safe school initiative.
He revealed that different batches of the squad had been trained at the national level and deployed to schools in some volatile states, with the CG directing the state commandants to replicate the same in their various states of control.
Afolabi also stated that, in furtherance of the corps’ efforts to end the spate of abductions of school children for ransom, it launched a National School Security and Emergency Response Centre to scale up surveillance and protect school children.
He also expressed the corps’ willingness to work collaboratively with local and international partners to enhance effective and successful implementation of the Safe Schools programme in Nigeria.