BusinessDay

FG to launch National Plan for Financing Safe Schools

The federal government will, before the end of the 3rd quarter, launch a National Plan for Financing Safe Schools which will clearly outline how Nigeria intends to protect schools and other learning places.

Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning announced this on Thursday in Abuja at a high level summit on “safeguarding our schools: protecting our children and our future”, organised by the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC).

The goal is really to develop a robust, collaborative, prioritized plan which will adopt the whole society approach to safe schools. The National Plan will be implemented in phases starting with the Most at Risk States, Local Governments and Schools Host Communities.

Launched in 2021, the ECC is a re-birth of the Safe Schools Initiative launched by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014 after the kidnap of the Chibok school girls.

Ahmed recalled that the Ministry of Finance and National Planning subsequently established a committee with members drawn from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including Federal Ministry of Education, the Military and other Security Agencies.

The Committee has been working to collate inputs from the relevant MDAs and to develop a National Plan for Financing Safe Schools, she said.

With heightening insecurity in Nigeria, the number of out of school children has also surged.

At 11 million, Nigeria has the highest number of ‘out of school’ children in the world according to the World Bank. It is estimated that around $3.4 billion would be lost due to ‘unrealised lifetime earnings of children should they drop out of school as a result of the on-going crisis.

The education crisis is also having broader socioeconomic costs, with fewer girls attending school, and with increasingly worse health outcomes for child and maternal health.

According to Ahmed, the new plan will incorporate state level, as well as Federal Government sectoral plans, with an emphasis on ensuring adequate budgetary allocation in order to create a safe learning environment for teaching, learning, and restoring confidence in the education system.

Consultations are currently underway with States, local governments and other critical agencies of government, and the Committee is also working to identify the most transparent, effective and accountable ways of mobilizing and deploying resources, she added.

In his remarks, former UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, who also launched the Safe Schools Initiative for Nigeria in 2014 noted that education remains one of the pillars for critical action by the United Nations and that “if we have to collectively recover from COVID 19, which along with the ongoing security unrest has led to Nigeria having the highest number of out of school children in the world, then we need to secure a world where everyone can thrive in peace, in dignity and in equality on a healthy planet.”

The first step towards achieving this, he said, is access to secure, safe, quality education. He recalled that he has been a keen supporter of initiatives to create safe teaching and learning environments in Nigeria, and that he has done so for some time.

“I’m committed to mobilizing international financial support and worldwide expertise to deliver safe school programs to benefit all children everywhere,” Brown assured.

Read also: How we’ll end insecurity, fix education – Baba-Ahmed

Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman, Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi noted education as very strategic in nation building.

Security of teaching and learning environments is a statutory responsibility of government at all levels, he said, and assured that governors are committed to ensuring the safety of schools in Nigeria to guarantee teaching and learning in the school system.

“We are making efforts in many states. These have reached advanced levels to provide perimeter fencing in all public schools, particularly primary and secondary schools, to guarantee security of learnings.

For him, “Adequate Care of learners through the provision of quality education and learning materials also has to be a top priority of the government.”

While he assured of state governments’ commitment to a safe teaching and learning environment through adequate funding for quality education and knowledge acquisition, Fayemi urged education stakeholders, religious and community leaders, development partners, and the public of their support.

“Security is a collective responsibility. This is the time for action,” he stated.

Atoade Alakija, ECC founder & WHO special Envoy regretted that the number of out of school children in Nigeria has reduced in percentage but has increased in actual numbers due to increasing population, “which in itself is another problem that we need to deal with.”

“The actual numbers to date are 10.2 million out of school primary, but in total, out of school children in the primary and secondary are about 18.5 million.

“We cannot pat ourselves on the back. We cannot say that we are doing a good job, because we are not, and we are here to make sure that we address that,” she stressed.

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