Over 40 civil society organisations from the six geo-political zones have converged in Abuja for a 3-day training on schools’ safety, security, and building resilient systems. The programme is part of the follow up on safe schools’ initiative of the African Union, an intervention on girls’ education.
Organised by the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), in collaboration with the Education in Emergency Technical Working Group, and UNICEF, the training is funded by Ford Foundation as part of its international support to improve education, girl child access to education and schools’ safety initiatives.
In his remark while declaring the 3-day training open, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sunny Echono, represented by Uchenna Uchenna, said ensuring safe schools is a national priority that the federal government is taking seriously.
While urging civil societies to take the step-down training with all the dedication required, the permanent secretary congratulated civil society groups for their contribution to the successful completion of the 4th international conference on safe schools’ declaration.
“Permit me to thank the development Research and Projects Centre, Ford Foundation and the Education in Emergency Technical Working Group for putting together the workshop as part of the post-conference intervention,” he said.
He said globally, civil society organisations are recognised as important non-state agents of development saddled with multi-faceted responsibilities to complement government efforts.
In her welcome address, Judith-Ann Walker, the executive director, dRPC, lamented the reluctance and resistance of parents to send their children to school due to rising insecurity. She urged the participants to discuss and find solutions to the attacks on schools and how if deliberate and committed efforts are not taken, Nigeria’s girl child will be left behind.
While urging the participants to discuss and bring out solutions that would help eliminate threats to school safety, she said only safe schools will ensure quality education, improved enrolment and completion rate of education.
While describing the training as timely, Judith Giwa, coordinator, Education In Emergency, UNICEF, disclosed that UNICEF is grateful for this collaboration between the dRPC and the Ford Foundation to bring civil society groups across the 36 states of the federation to learn about the decisions and recommendations of the AU summit on girls education in Africa.
While calling for concerted efforts to ensure schools are safe, she said Nigerian children face the grievous challenges of insecurity, poverty, and lack of access. She added that it is imperative for civil society to strengthen their advocacy voices to ensure schools are safe.
In her speech at the occasion, Abiola Sanusi, the senior policy and strategy adviser, Global Coalition to protect schools, called on the civil society to improve their advocacies to protect Nigerian schools and pressure governments at the federal and state levels to invest in schools’ protection, intelligence gathering, and parents’ involvement to ensure education continuation in Nigeria.
While adding the traditional voice to the debate, the Sarkin Yakin Gagi, an advisor to the Sultan of Sokoto on Health, challenged the civil society organisations to double their efforts and to increase vigilance in ensuring schools are protected and Nigerian children are given the opportunity to be educated.
A highlight of the occasion was an emotional presentation by Fatima Adamu who expressed the disappointment of parents in Kebbi State over the abduction of over 50 female students of the Yawuri secondary school. She called on the Kebbi state government to engage parents and to brief parents on the situation of their children.
‘As I am talking to you now, a child still remains with the bandits and they refuse to negotiate with us insisting that they will only talk to the government,” she said.
The three-day training is designed to increase the knowledge base of CSOs on the 4th international conference on safe schools’ for transfer to community levels, enhance the capacity of the CSOs to transfer and demonstrate knowledge, skills and practices on safe schools, and support CSOs to mount advocacy to state governments and State Universal Basic Education Boards to scale up safe schools initiative.
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