BusinessDay

Rising death toll of children in private schools

Nigerian children have continued to suffer the impact of unsecured learning environment, both in public and private settings. Some children have been kidnapped, killed, maimed, and/or afflicted with other manners of abuse in schools, thereby violating their fundamental human rights.

On Friday, July 8, the news was broken about how two children died in their school bus in Aguda-Surulere in Lagos State.

According to Benjamin Hundeyin, the Lagos State police command’s spokesperson, “One of the victims is an 8-year-old male. We are yet to get the details of the other one.”

Explaining how it happened, Hundeyin said, “A school bus driver ignored repeated complaints from the children he was taking home that they were not feeling well.”

And unless children are raised in a healthy and safe school environment during childhood, their future development could be seriously hampered

He added that some of the children became unconscious, while two eventually died.

Nigerians were shaken in January 2022 by the news of the murder of the kidnapped Hanifa Abubakar, a 5-year-old girl by Abdulmalik Tanko, the owner of the school where she was enrolled for early childhood education.

This year again, Chidera Eze, a 5-year-old pupil of a mission pre-school in Ogba, Lagos State, was reported to have drowned during a swimming lesson organised by the school allegedly due to the carelessness of the caregivers.

In 2021, the media were filled with sordid news of rape, abuse, and harassment of pupils in Nigerian schools. One of such cases was the 11-year-old boy, allegedly molested by fellow students at a mission school in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The country has not forgotten in a hurry the sudden and unfortunate death of Sylvester Oromoni who was alleged to have been killed by his colleagues in a school where there is supposed to be guardians and safety.

Schools are meant to provide an important environment for care and development of a child, especially at the nursery/primary level.

According to experts, school attendance at the pre-school and primary levels bridges the gap in home care and lays the foundation for future learning.

And unless children are raised in a healthy and safe school environment during childhood, their future development could be seriously hampered.

The role of government is one that is anchored on the rule of law derived from the constitution, and the law confers on the government the responsibility to protect the citizens.

So the rise in children being killed in schools is one that is very disheartening. The schools and children fall under two major ministries, the education, and culture and information ministries.

The government’s role in this regard is obviously in the area of enacting and implementing policies that will curb this kind of avoidable issue.

Read also: Education as poverty alleviation strategy

These incidents are mainly witnessed in private schools, and this tends to suggest that most private school owners may not be professionals.

We therefore advise that government should intensify monitoring of schools, especially private schools for basic safety measures. We believe such monitoring should include unannounced visitations and on-the-spot assessments.

We are aware that the Lagos State Ministry of Education is doing a lot with regard to ensuring healthy and safe school environments for children.

However, we urge the government to as a matter of urgency ensure that school buses have a first-aid box in case of an emergency and health safety and environment officer.

The Education Quality Assurance Unit of the ministry of education is saddled with enhancing quality standards in educational institutions below the tertiary level, setting clearly defined learning outcomes through holistic evaluation.

The truth is that Lagos has many schools and going by the size and the enormous nature of the work before the quality and assurance agency, they are overwhelmed by the task.

In Nigeria, the instance of pre-schoolers being objects of victimisation in unsecured school environments and/or carefree cum selfish educators’ disposition is the order of the day.

No doubt, crimes, and unfortunate happen-stances are common human occurrences; however, in countries such as the USA, Canada, and Finland, among others, there are government articulated strategic approaches to ensure the safety and comfort of children, especially while in school.

According to Donald Trump, the immediate past president of the USA, “Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community surrounded by a loving family and to have a future filled with opportunity and with hope.”

Trump took steps to ensure that schools were safe and secure, just like airports, stadia, and government buildings during his tenure. That is not to say there were no unfortunate incidences in schools during his regime and even till now.

Just on Tuesday, May 24, there was a report of a gunman who invaded Robb Elementary School in Uvalde – Texas, a school that teaches children aged 7 to 10 years, killing 19 before he was killed by law enforcement agents.

The culprit was hacked down because there were functional security operatives in place who did not give room for more damages to be done by the killer. That is exactly one of the differentiating landmarks between these countries and Nigeria.

When institutions are strengthened and allowed to work with adequate autonomy, the rule of law will take its course.

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