- It is no longer news that armed gangs now target schools in northern Nigeria as a money-making venture
- Routinely, these terrorists storm schools and take away students in exchange for ransom
- The strict adoption of the Safe Schools Initiative might help in reducing these attacks
As Nigeria battles a new wave of attacks by armed bandits aimed at taking young students as hostages in exchange for ransom, experts say there is a need for communities to start adopting the strict measures of the Safe Schools Initiative.
The initiative which was launched in 2014, is aimed at helping to protect hundreds of schools in Nigeria.
In this article, Legit.ng lists six advantages of the initiative.
1. Reinforced school infrastructure
Bolstering the physical protection of schools is necessary to shield staff and students and provide means of self-defense. As recommended by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, this may involve the use of boundary walls and/or the installation of barbed wire as basic and cost-effective mechanisms.
Additional measures should be taken for any student or teacher housing. The construction of boundary walls to thwart attacks and abductions has been implemented in 8,327 Afghanistan schools with first priority for girls schools.
2. Armed guard(s)
If appropriate, in collaboration with law enforcement or military personnel, schools may wish to be provided with guards. These may include the military or state-assisted paramilitary police, or privately hired security. Armed guards could repel attacks and intimidate would-be attackers and are common practice in the federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan where school districts employ private armed security to thwart attacks. The use of armed guards may not always be appropriate.
3. Training staff as school safety officers
Staff at each school must be trained on security measures including procedures for evacuation of school buildings and communicating with security officials. Selected safety officers in schools must also ensure each classroom has an emergency pack containing supplies that must accompany each class when an evacuation occurs. All safety officers should have a way to communicate with local authorities should a school come under attack.
4. School counselor visits
Counselors can be based in each school or appointed to carry out regular school visits in several communities. They can greatly assist students who have experienced attacks in addressing trauma so that they are able to refocus on learning. Counselors may also help students cope with the perceived militarization of their schools that can occur with the presence of armed protection and is shown to decrease student learning if left unaddressed.
5. A school security plan
In line with the guidance provided by local authorities, each school should have a safety plan so that all students know what to do in the case of an emergency. All staff and students must be familiarized with the plans and corresponding procedures. These must also be communicated to families and the broader community.
6. Part of a rapid response system
When schools are attacked, there should be a response unit so they are quickly repaired or rebuilt and destroyed education material replaced. A senior official could be designated in each state to oversee the rapid response system and ensure that education is made available at alternative locations until schools are rebuilt and secure conditions ensured.
Legit.ng had earlier reported that an undisclosed number of students have been abducted in a raid by suspected armed bandits on the Government Science College Kagara in Niger state.
Shehu Sani, a former Nigerian senator via Twitter on Wednesday, February 17, confirmed the attack on the school which is his alma mata, adding that some staff members of the institution were also abducted by armed men.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Senate has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency across the country with immediate effect.
The demand was part of the Senate’s resolution on Wednesday, February 17 as a holistic response to the mounting security challenges across the country.
Jerrywright Ukwu is an Abuja-based senior political/defence correspondent at Legit.ng. He is a graduate of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos and the International Institute of Journalism in Abuja. He is also a member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. He spends his leisure-time reading history books. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.