from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – MORE than 300 schools have been forced to close due to insecurity by armed groups in Niger in recent months.
The closure of the education centres has affected over 22 000 children.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) disclosed the figure as the globe marked the International Day to Protect Education from Attack.
It is marked yearly on September 9.
The number of schools forced to close due to insecurity in conflict-affected areas in Niger has increased from 312 to 377 over recent months.
Threats to security were particularly acute in the regions of Tillabéry, Tahoua and Diffa, where the Nigerian-based Boko Haram group perpetrates.
Access to schools in these regions in the landlocked West Africa nation is restricted, hampering efforts to support children affected by armed violence.
UNICEF estimates that, in some areas, up to 80 percent of children may be victims of psychological trauma, potentially preventing them from achieving their full potential as adults.
“Attacks on schools, students and teachers are a denial of children’s right to education and threaten their future,” said Stefano Savi, UNICEF representative in Niger.
“Without access to education, a generation of children living in conflict will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their country and economy, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families.”
The envoy added a child’s right to education cannot be safeguarded in conflict zones without education itself being protected.
“Education can be a life-saver,” Savi said.
He highlighted that out of school, children are easy targets of abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed forces and groups.
School, the envoy added, should provide a safe space where children can be protected from threats and crises.
“It is also a critical step to breaking the cycle of crisis and reduces the likelihood of future conflicts,” Savi explained.
– CAJ News