By Our Correspondents |
Following the recent kidnap of some students of Government Secondary School Kagara, Niger State, teachers in the country have called on the federal government to immediately revive and implement the Safe Schools Initiative as part of measures to protect them and schoolchildren from attacks.
The Safe Schools Initiative was launched at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Nigeria in 2014 by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders working with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School.
However, since it was set up in response to the growing number of attacks on the right to education after the kidnap of the Chibok girls, it has not been implemented.
Reacting in an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday yesterday, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) also advocated that children should be insured and hazard allowance be made available for teachers because of the dangers they face.
Press and public relations officer of the NUT, Emmanuel Hwande, said the union are also demanding for a state of emergency with a critical analysis of the increasing attacks on schools and initiating a comprehensive security strategy that will ensure safety of students and teachers while permanently keeping away criminal elements from schools.
The NUT spokesman said: “This is not just an attack on Nigerian teachers, it’s an attack on education because you see from the antecedent, Boko Haram which aims to destroy everything Western has now metamorphosed into criminal groups.
“Already, we have a deficit in professional teachers, we need more teachers to take care of these children and if these attacks continue and people are not encouraged to join the teaching profession, it will have a deficit on the education sector. It is also a deficit if out of fear parents begin to stop their children from going to school, this will translate into further underdevelopment of education. So it has a greater impact on education and the development of Nigeria as a nation.
“The way forward is, it clearly shows that the Safe School Initiative which was advocated at the peak of the Boko Haram crisis to keep our schools safe is not implemented. That is why the criminal elements can just come into schools and move such a large number of students away.
“That is why we advocate that if there is a gap in the security network, state governments have security so they should begin to think of how they will use their own to create an alternative security arrangement to complement the role of government.
“We may downgrade the implication but in five to 10 years to come when we begin to see the negative impact of what is happening now it will be very different for our nation, we already have the challenge of school enrolment, especially in the North and it’s the implication of keeping children away from school that they have found a safe haven in crime and criminality.
“We also want to advocate that if the school becomes a danger spot, insurance is very important, children should be insured and for the teachers hazard allowance because of the danger they will suffer.
“Government should begin to think of how to provide alternative security arrangements to complement what security agencies are doing and go back to the drawing board and begin to implement the initiative that was drafted years back”.
Also lending their voices, state chapter chairmen of the teachers’ union have suggested other means through which the security challenges around schools can be tackled.
The NUT Kaduna State chapter said it is the responsibility of the government to provide adequate security for schools against enemies of education who have turned to kidnapping students and their teachers for ransom.
According to the principal secretary, Adamu Ango who spoke on behalf of the chairman, Mallam Ibrahim Surajo, government should make sure that adequate security is provided in schools so that teachers are not kidnapped, as it is only when there is adequate security that learning and teaching can take place effectively.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday on the current spate of kidnapping of students in schools and the possible solution, the chairman of NUT in Akwa Ibom State, Etim Ukpong, said kidnapping of students is a nefarious, villainous, terrible crime that portends security challenges in Nigeria.
He said the menace was on a geometric progression while the security tactics of combating were on arithmetic progression and identified poverty and unemployment of youths as well as social injustice and unfair distribution of the nation’s resources as potent causes of kidnapping in Nigeria.
These factors, according to him, have caused the youth to engage in kidnapping and criminal activities as a way of getting their share of the nation’s wealth.
He called for immediate establishment of community policing and motivation of law enforcement agencies.
“Government should make it compulsory for all school proprietors to employ security guards from licensed security companies under the Ministry of Interior and supervised by the Nigerian security and Civil Defence Corps,” he said.
Similarly, Mr Hamilton Ahamba, a private school employee in Umuahia advocated the posting of both uniform and plain clothes security agents to schools to protect students and teachers.
“In addition to this, both the government and the private school proprietors should go a step further by building fences around the schools as well as installing CCTVs in them,” he said.
Teachers in Kwara State on their part urged the state government to beef up security in all schools across the state.
The state chairman of the NUT, Comrade Olu Adewara, made the call during an interview with LEADERSHIP Sunday in Ilorin.
Adewara said given the abduction of students by bandits in some parts of the country, the state government ought to have thought it wise to beef up security in schools.
Adewara said the NUT would support the deployment of police and other security agencies to schools to provide security.
He added: “The state government should beef up security in schools but this must be done in a way that it will not be intimidating to the teachers and students. Sometimes the police can go out of order in carrying out such responsibilities. In as much as they will ensure that what they are asked to do is what they will face squarely, that’s providing security for students and teachers. If this is ensured, we as a union have nothing against the deployment of policemen to our schools, rather we will appreciate the government for doing that.”
The chairman, Osun State chapter of the NUT, Alhaji Amuda Wakili, described the security situation in schools as worrisome.
Amuda blamed governments for not doing enough to protect schools through the provisions of security operatives and construction of strong perimeter fences.
He said teachers in Osun State had been sensitized to be conscious of their environments and take cover in case of attacks.
Also reacting, the Cross River State chairman of the NUT, Comrade Eyo Nsa, said poor security situation in schools should be blamed for the incessant attacks
He said, “A situation where a school have only one security man to mount security for the school isn’t good enough for the system. Why can’t the school management employ up to three to four security men to take care of security situation of the school rather than relying on only one security man that may not have tbe capacity to deal with security situation of schools.
Taraba, Plateau Teachers Disagree Over Possession Of Arms
Meanwhile, the Taraba State chapter of NUT has urged all teachers in the state to carry guns while going to their school to protect themselves and their pupils.
But the Plateau State chapter of the teachers’ union said it would wrong for teachers to take guns to school because they are role models
Reacting to the abduction and kidnap of students, chairman of Taraba State chapter of the NUT, Comrade Peter Jurius Vow, linked the idea of arming teachers to the recent statement by the minister of defence, Bashir Magashi, that Nigerians should defend themselves against bandits.
He said the future of Nigeria was at stake, going by the level of kidnapping and abductions.
“These children being held by bandits are doctors, journalists, professors, governors or world leaders of tomorrow. With what is going on, our future is threatened, government should intensify more security efforts, we should also be watchful in our environments, let’s report unusual faces to security agencies and monitor our areas to forestall security challenges.
“If I have to speak on how insecurity is affecting education in Nigeria, I’ve to meet with my members and make a call to Abuja. I’m a chairman in council not an executive chairman. An authority said we should carry guns. Do we have to carry guns to safeguard our teachers and students? Then I advise every teacher to carry guns for their safety,” he said.
However, speaking to our correspondent in Jos yesterday, the chairman of the NUT in Plateau State, Comrade Gana Seri Ayuba, said teachers should not take guns to school because they are role models.
According to him, teachers should identify students with questionable character with a view to reporting them to their parents and school authorities for prompt action, adding that the government at all levels should ensure security of students and teachers in their various schools.
“Government and proprietors of schools should beef up security of their schools. They schools should be fenced with security personnel manning the gates to check students and visitors coming in.”
No Plans To Pay Ransom For Kagara Students – FG
Meanwhile, following unconfirmed reports that the federal government had paid N800m to secure the release of students of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State who were recently kidnapped, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the federal government is not considering paying ransom to secure their release.
On Wednesday, armed men broke into the school premises while students and staff were asleep and whisked away 27 students, three teachers, some non-teaching staff members and nine family members.
Speaking yesterday on Channels Television, the minister said no ransom was also paid for the release of the abducted Kankara schoolboys in Katsina State and the Dapchi schoolgirls in Yobe State.
When asked if ransom was part of the government’s strategy to secure the students and staff, the minister said: “No”, adding that the government was “on top” of the matter, but that it was not a subject for television discussion.
Explaining some of the government’s strategies to curb the rate of abductions in the country, he said the government “employs kinetic and non-kinetic (measures), you don’t throw away invitations to engage but the overall strategy you keep to your chest.”
He added: “Bandits all over the world work with the psychology of the people. Deliberately, they target women and children because this is what will attract a lot of global outcry. That is exactly what bandits do all over the world.
“The government has put in place, all along, various strategies to contain banditry, to fight insurgency, to fight kidnapping. Some of these measures are kinetic, some are not kinetic. We didn’t get here overnight and that is why it is difficult to get out one day.
“Criminality in any form will not be tolerated by the government. At the same time, the government has a duty to look at the underlying causes of some of these criminalities in order to address them.”
He stated that he was in Minna with his colleagues, the ministers of Interior and Police Affairs, the IG, and the National Security Adviser on Wednesday to get firsthand information on the abduction of the Kagara schoolboys.
“I can tell you as of today that the government is on top of the matter,” he added.