from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – INTERNATIONAL human rights groups are demanding that Nigeria and the United Kingdom protect pupils and schools from terror attacks in the West African country.
Four organisations have petitioned both governments following an escalation of such violence claiming the lives of at least seven abducted pupils this year.
Nigeria has witnessed no less than 12 armed attacks on educational establishments in which over 1 100 students have been abducted for ransom during the period.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that at least 1 million students could miss school this year due to the rise in mass school abductions and insecurity.
The Safer Education petition has been delivered as Nigeria prepares to host the Fourth International Conference on the Declaration in Abuja.
It is scheduled for October 24 to 27 under the theme, “Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice.”
“Every child in Nigeria deserves a safe education, without fear of violence or abduction”, said Ayo Adedoyin, Chief Executive of Peace-building and Social Justice-UK.
Adedoyin called on the UK and Nigerian Governments to do all they can to protect schools from terrorist attacks, prevent the abduction of schoolchildren, promote support for mobile school units for displaced students and provide aid to vulnerable communities throughout the country.
Baroness Cox, Founder President of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, lamented that groupings such as the Boko Haram and bandits demanded ransoms after kidnapping scholars.
“In some instances, state and federal authorities have paid these ransoms,” Cox said.
“However, in Kaduna state, parents are obliged to incur vast debts due to the governor’s refusal to pay further ransom.”
The northern state is among the states most targeted by kidnappers.
Mervyn Thomas, Founder President of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, denounced that Nigerian authorities had responded to the attacks on schools mainly by closing them.
“This is a blunt instrument that ensures the safety of students at the expense of their education,” the official said.
Thomas said instead, schools in areas vulnerable to terrorist attack – especially northern states and the Middle Belt – must be better protected.
“School should be a safe space for students to learn, and to fulfil their potential, even during conflict,” Thomas said.
– CAJ News