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Protecting children and education from attack

The United Nations (UN) in recognition of the global threats to education and its disruptive impact on the lives of students designated the 9th of September every year as the International Day to Protect Education from Attack. This year’s event, which was the second edition was marked to raise awareness to the plight of millions of children and young adults who are denied education. And growing up without the requisite skills to contribute to developing their countries. The theme for this year’s event was Education, Security and National Development.

Education is one of the components of national security, and it is as important as Defence of a nation. It is one of the factors that contribute significantly to the national development of a country.

We must acknowledge that Nigeria has drifted to a situation of low academic standard for quite some time. We must remind ourselves that the power of a nation is determined among other factors by the large number of educated people it can muster.

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With rapid changes in technology and the world becoming increasingly knowledge-based, education has become the driver of human development. How are we going to be active participants in the 4th industrial Revolution with declining quality in education? Quality education is a key component for any nation that wishes to enhance the standard of human resources, create new skills, cultural values and behavioral patterns required in the industry.

A nation whose people are not educated, disciplined and organized cannot develop. An attack on schools, students and their teachers in my view is an attack on national development.

Education is the fourth pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN, which specifically demands that nations should ensure that their people acquire the skills and knowledge to promote sustainable development by the year 2030. A nation whose people are not educated, disciplined and organized cannot develop. An attack on schools, students and their teachers in my view is an attack on national development.

Attack on education, students and teachers started about four decades ago. But we did not pay much attention to it. Inadequate funding of public schools, teachers’ unpaid salaries and incessant strikes by lecturers particularly at the tertiary level, decay of technological infrastructure – universities, technical colleges, secondary schools, research and development institutions –constitute attacks on education and school children.

Without job satisfaction, most teachers engage in parallel businesses in order to make ends meet. While employment of teachers with poor qualifications is another way we have attacked education in the country. Accordingly, we have over 10 million out – of – school children on the streets of Nigeria selling cheap goods made in industrialized nations.

Most schools in the country, particularly in the North, are not safe. Who are the sponsors of these terrorists? Why cannot the government cut off their supply/logistics chain? It remains a question to be answered. However, the war has been fought for more than 10 years. The longest war in Nigeria. Banditry, kidnapping, terrorism —are big time businesses in the country as ransom are being collected from victims before release. If smugglers thrive, and other criminal activities flourish why cannot banditry and abduction grow, some scholars would say?

Those in the government have applied extreme countermeasures to prevent education from attack. Currently, Zamfara State has closed all schools till further notice. Kaduna State has closed down schools. Adamawa State ordered closure of boarding facilities in 30 schools. Because more than 1000 students have been abducted since December 2020. A very traumatizing situation to most students, teachers and parents. A few days ago, there were reports that “All Telecom sites in Zamfara state and neighboring states have been shut down on the orders of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC ) for the next two weeks.”

The negative impact of the attack on education of our children is of grave concern. Some state governors are helpless even when schools and students in their local governments are under attack. They ask us to pray. But hope is not a strategy in winning any war. We need to be creative in any solution chosen. Every solution has its own risks and steps must be taken to mitigate those risks.

No single factor is responsible for the nation’s backwardness, and no single policy or strategy can set in motion the complex process of national development. We need to bring all elements of national power to bear in fighting insecurity. Diplomacy, information, military, economic (DIME) – all these elements have been applied singly or collectively. The role of the military is clear as expressly stated in the 1999 Constitution, however, the federal and state governments must provide good governance, ensure equity and justice, and curtail the proliferation of arms. And likewise, increase funding to schools, improve welfare of teachers and upgrade technological infrastructure.

Our citizens can provide necessary information that will assist the government and the military to succeed in the security of the nation. All state governors must collaborate to save schools and students from bandits and terrorists. Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, and others particularly those states that are considered flashpoints of terrorist activities must work together in finding a lasting solution to their security challenges.

While acknowledging the Safe Schools Declaration, state governments must be committed to protecting schools and universities from violence and military use during armed conflict. While state governments are urged to move students to safer places in cities. All components of national power must be deployed to see an end to attacks on schools and grave violence of children’s rights. This is to give our children the opportunity of benefiting from education so that they do not become spectators in a world that is in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Thank you.

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