Chibok Shool Girls: Gordon Brown, Nigerian coalition launch ‘Safe Schools Initiative’

Gordon Brown said “the initiative is an initial $10 million fund, challenging matching investments by the government, to promote schools as safe spaces”.

A former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, on Wednesday teamed up with a coalition of Nigerian business leaders to formally launch the “Safe Schools Initiative” as part of the opening activities of the World Economic Forum, WEF, Africa in Nigeria

Mr. Brown, who is the UN Special Envoy for Education, said the collaboration with the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School launch was in response to the growing number of attacks on the right to education, including the kidnap of more than 250 girls from Chibok last month.

He said as part of the growing movement to “Bring Back Our Girls, “the initiative is an initial $10 million fund, challenging matching investments by the government, to promote schools as safe spaces”.

The take-off of the initiative would be with 500 schools as the pilots in the northern states, and focused on school and community interventions, with special measures for the most at-risk and vulnerable children.

The initiative would equally build community security groups to promote safe zones for education, consisting of teachers, parents, police, community leaders and young people themselves.

In the longer-term, the initiators of the project said it would later focus on the physical protection of schools, by providing school guards and police in partnership with Nigerian authorities, training staff as school safety officers, providing communications tools and school counsellors.

The initiative, working with the government, would also work to help schools create school security plans, to develop a rapid response system so that even when faced with attacks, response units are set up to quickly repair or rebuild; and destroyed education material is replaced.

The former Prime Minister would, in the course of the WEF meeting, consult with President Goodluck Jonathan this week, to approve a plan from the international community to partner with Nigeria for the largest school expansion in the country’s history to get out-of-school children into school.

“We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear of their daughters’ lives. The education system that has the potential to transform Nigeria cannot be undermined. The Safe School Initiative will put Nigeria on track to help more and more girls and boys go to school and learn,” Mr. Brown said.

A petition with over 400,000 signatures would be delivered before the close of the WEF programme this week to President Jonathan to demonstrate international support for creating safe schools in Nigeria so that every girl and boy is able to go to school and learn.

The Global Business Coalition for Education said it is still soliciting more corporate partners to support the expansion of safe schools initiative in Nigeria to protect the right of children and young people to go to school and learn.

“One of Africa’s greatest assets is its young people who will drive its future development. The Safe Schools Initiative can help Africa unlock their potential and in this light, could be seen as a crucial intervention,” Head of Gender Parity and Skills Initiatives, World Economic Forum, Saadia Zahidi, said

“Inclusive growth means building for the future. The Safe Schools Initiative is a public-private partnership that will help protect our greatest asset, our young people, by giving them a safe environment where they can acquire the skills they need to realize their full potential,” Nduka Obaigbena, the Editor-in-Chief, ThisDay Newspapers, said.


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