• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s human capital at risk as bandits run riot

The increasing attacks on schools by bandits and terrorists, leaving a trail of destruction, fear, and uncertainty in their wake, have a huge impact on Nigeria’s human capital, experts have warned.

This escalating crisis does not only jeopardise the safety and well-being of students and educators but also threatens the nation’s future stability and prosperity, according to them.

Peter Kaifas, chief executive officer of Baye Ventures, said one of the most disturbing and alarming aspects of these crises is the deliberate targeting of schoolchildren, who are abducted for ransom or forcibly recruited into extremist ideologies.

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He said: “The infamous abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014 by Boko Haram sent shockwaves across the globe, yet such incidents have sadly become increasingly commonplace.

“The impact of these attacks extends far beyond the immediate victims. They sow fear and distrust, disrupt education, and undermine social cohesion. Many parents now live in constant fear for the safety of their children, leading to widespread reluctance to send them to school.”

He said this has exacerbated existing educational inequalities and hampers the country’s efforts to achieve universal access to quality education.

Kaifas said: “The long-term consequences of disrupted education are dire. Without access to schooling, children are deprived of essential knowledge and skills, perpetuating cycles of poverty and hindering socio-economic development.

“Furthermore, the loss of educational opportunities robs Nigeria of its potential future leaders, innovators, and changemakers.”

While efforts to rescue abducted students and secure schools are commendable, many argue that they are not enough to address the root causes of the problem. Persistent socio-economic disparities, lack of political will power and systemic corruption provide fertile ground for extremism and criminality to thrive.

“To truly confront these crises, a multifaceted approach is needed. This includes enhancing security measures around schools, investing in intelligence-gathering capabilities to disrupt terrorist networks, addressing socio-economic inequalities, and promoting dialogue and reconciliation to prevent the further radicalization of vulnerable communities,” Kaifas said.

According to him, international support and collaboration are also crucial in tackling Nigeria’s education crisis.

He said: “The global community must stand in solidarity with Nigeria, providing both technical assistance and financial resources to bolster the country’s capacity to combat insecurity and protect its schools.

“The fate of Nigeria’s education system hangs in the balance. If decisive action is not taken to stem the tide of violence and insecurity, the nation risks squandering the potential of its youth and consigning future generations to a bleak and uncertain future.

“Now is the time for concerted efforts to safeguard Nigeria’s schools and ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn, thrive, and contribute to a brighter tomorrow.”

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On his part, Emeka Ozukoye of the Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative believes that one of the primary objectives of the Safe School Initiative is to enhance security measures within educational institutions which includes the deployment of trained security personnel, installation of surveillance systems, and implementation of access control measures such as perimeter fencing and entry checkpoints.

By fortifying school infrastructure and adopting proactive security protocols, he said that schools can deter potential threats and respond swiftly to security incidents.

He said: “Community engagement is a critical component of the Safe School Initiative’s success. By forging partnerships between schools, local authorities, parents, and community leaders, initiatives can be developed to promote safety awareness and foster a culture of vigilance within communities.

“This involves organising neighborhood watch programs, conducting safety workshops, and establishing communication channels for reporting suspicious activities. By mobilizing collective action and involving stakeholders at all levels, communities can play an active role in identifying and addressing security challenges in schools.”

He said technology and innovation play a crucial role in enhancing school security and mitigating risks.

He said the Safe School Initiative can leverage digital platforms for real-time monitoring of school premises, implementation of biometric identification systems, and dissemination of security alerts.

Ozukoye said: “Additionally, mobile applications can be developed to facilitate reporting of security incidents and emergency response coordination. By harnessing the power of technology, schools can bolster their capacity to detect, deter, and respond to security threats effectively.

“Empowering students and teachers will promote safety and resilience in schools. The Safe School Initiative can provide training and capacity-building programs to equip educators with the skills and knowledge to identify warning signs of insecurity, implement emergency response protocols, and provide psychosocial support to students.

“Students can be engaged in peer-to-peer safety education initiatives, where they learn about personal safety, conflict resolution, and resilience-building strategies. By empowering stakeholders with the tools and resources they need, the Safe School Initiative can foster a sense of ownership and collective responsibility for school safety.”

The SSI presents a viable framework for addressing insecurity in Nigerian schools and creating safer learning environment for all.

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He said: “Moving forward, it is imperative for the government to prioritize the comprehensive implementation of both the Safe Schools Initiative by addressing gaps in infrastructure, providing adequate resources, and enhancing coordination among relevant stakeholders.

“By investing in these initiatives and prioritising the safety of students and educators, Nigeria can take significant strides towards creating a secure learning environment for all.”