Even though Nigeria appears to be in turmoil owing largely to the deplorable state of security, the increasing wave of attacks and abduction of students has further underscored the need to reinforce security around schools.
Since the sad incident of Chibok when Boko Haram terrorists in March 2014 stormed the Borno community and abducted 276 schoolgirls, attacks on campuses and the subsequent abduction of students have continued to escalate.
On February 19, 2018, schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in Dapchi town of Yobe State. There was the Kankara school attack in Katsina State, the Kagara school attack in Niger State and in Kaduna State the country witnessed attacks on the College of Forestry Mechanisation and the Green Field University.
Sadly, in all of these attacks, students were abducted and, while some of them are still with their captors, others were gruesomely murdered.
Expectedly, this spate of attacks and abductions, including the latest one involving some students of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, has further accentuated the need for safety in schools.
We recall that shortly after the abduction of Chibok schoolgirls, the Safe Schools Initiative was launched ostensibly to boost security around schools so as to make learning possible for students across the country, especially in crisis-prone areas.
The Safe Schools Initiative was launched in 2014 during the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders working with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the Global Business Coalition for Education and World at School.
Basically, the idea was to ensure that students are not only safe going to school but are also provided with an environment that is conducive for learning, growth and development devoid of fear.
Interestingly, the sum of $30 million was raised at the launch of the initiative, but years after the launch, the dream of safe schools appears more elusive as more and more schools, especially in the northern part of the country with an abysmally low literacy level, have continued to witness attacks and abduction of students.
Evidently, the rising incidences of attacks, especially on schools, and the kidnapping of students have not only made learning less encouraging but also continues to ignite fear in the minds of both parents and students.
Without doubt, these persistent attacks and abductions show clearly that the nation’s desire for safe schools is far from being a reality. But what is the status of the Safe Schools Initiative and the fund realised from its launch?
A report published by this newspaper recently revealed that seven years after the launch of the Safe Schools Initiative where a whooping $30 million was raised, many states are yet to benefit from the initiative.
While Nigerians continue to agonise over the general state of insecurity and the persistent attacks on schools in particular, there is the need to interrogate the whereabouts of the Safe Schools Fund.
There is also the N500million school rebuilding fund which is also part of the Safe Schools Initiative programme launched in the aftermath of the abduction of Chibok schoolgirls.
We recall that former President Goodluck Jonathan announced a N500million fund to rebuild the Chibok school. It was envisaged that when rebuilt, the school will have a state-of-the-art library, a laboratory, a computer and ICT Centre, a sports arena and a clinic.
Sadly, seven years after the government announced the fund for the rehabilitation of the school, nothing has been done with the school still shut.
More worrisome is the fact that days after this newspaper reported that most states had not benefitted from the Safe Schools Fund, there is still no explanation from any quarter on how the money was expended, fuelling concerns that it may well have been mismanaged.
The government owes Nigerians an explanation on the whereabouts of this money and it needs to know that silence on an issue as crucial as this, at a time like this, is not in any way golden. Was the fund diverted, outrightly stolen or misapplied?
We urge the government to urgently investigate the circumstances surrounding the funds so as to expose and put to shame all those associated with its mismanagement.
The government must direct the anti-graft agencies to investigate and ensure full recovery of the money so that it will be used for what it was meant. The time to do that is now.