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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released a concerning report indicating that only 43 per cent of the minimum safety standards are being met in approximately 6,000 assessed schools across Nigeria. Ms. Cristian Munduate, the UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, delivered this message on the occasion of the 2024 International Day of Education, themed “Learning for Lasting Peace.”

Nigeria has shown commitment to fostering safe school environments by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration and establishing Minimum Standards for Safe Schools. However, Ms. Munduate stressed the necessity for further advancement and shared responsibility in safeguarding educational spaces.

Ms. Munduate emphasized the pivotal role of education in promoting peace and stability, as reflected in the theme “Learning for Lasting Peace” for the 2024 International Day of Education. This theme underscores the imperative of providing secure learning environments for all stakeholders.

She expressed deep concern over the challenges faced by Nigerian children, especially adolescent girls, whose education often faces disruption due to attacks on communities and schools, including student abductions. Recent assaults on schools have disrupted learning for over 1.3 million children, prompting precautionary closures and highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive school safety measures.

Ms. Munduate underscored the significance of alternative learning platforms like the Nigerian Learning Passport, which provides curriculum-aligned materials. These platforms play a crucial role in ensuring continuous education, particularly during school closures, and offer a lifeline to students amidst turmoil.

Expanding the Issue: Addressing Safety Standards in Nigerian Schools

The alarming statistics provided by UNICEF shed light on a pervasive issue that demands immediate attention and concerted action from government bodies, educational institutions, and civil society.

  1. Understanding the Scope: The assessment of safety standards in 6,000 schools represents a fraction of the educational landscape in Nigeria. To comprehensively address safety concerns, a more extensive evaluation covering a broader range of schools is imperative.
  2. Impact on Learning: The disruptions caused by attacks on schools have far-reaching consequences beyond immediate safety concerns. Disrupted education deprives children of their fundamental right to learn and jeopardizes their future prospects.
  3. Protecting Vulnerable Groups: Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to the repercussions of disrupted education. Attacks on schools not only hinder their academic progress but also expose them to increased risks, including exploitation and early marriage.
  4. Urgency of Action: The recent surge in attacks underscores the urgency of implementing robust safety measures in Nigerian schools. Proactive steps must be taken to fortify school infrastructure, enhance security protocols, and provide adequate support to affected students and communities.
  5. Role of Alternative Learning Platforms: Initiatives like the Nigerian Learning Passport offer a lifeline to students amidst crises by ensuring uninterrupted access to educational resources. Expanding the reach and effectiveness of such platforms is essential to mitigate the impact of disruptions on learning outcomes.

In conclusion, addressing safety standards in Nigerian schools requires a multi-faceted approach that prioritizes the well-being and educational rights of every child. Collaboration between government agencies, educational stakeholders, and humanitarian organizations is paramount to creating safe and conducive learning environments for all.

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