The Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. (Dr.) Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed said that the Federal Government is set to launch a National Safe School Plan before the end of the third quarter of this year.
According to the Minister, ‘the plan outlines how Nigeria intends to protect her schools and other learning places, so that our children can once again return to learning in a safer and more secured environment’.
Ahmed stated this in Abuja while declaring open a High level Summit for Castle on Safeguarding our Schools: Protecting our Children and our Future, organized by Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), a Nigerian based organization established to facilitate, coordinate and provide strategic advice and direction to social development.
The Minister represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mallam Aliyu Ahmed, lamented that Nigeria over the past several years has faced major security challenges, including attacks on schools and other places of learning, leading to closure of schools in impacted and most at risk communities.
She recalled that the Federal Government, as part of efforts to tackle these crises, had in 2014 launched the Safe School Initiative (SSI) which focused on enabling children affected by conflict and insecurity to continue with their education.
According to her, President Buhari formally signed the Safe Schools Declaration Ratification Documents on December 31, 2019, signaling the country’s resolve to implementing the intergovernmental commitment in Nigeria while the government had, in consultation with local and global stakeholders, convened (in partnership with the Emergency Coordination Centre, UNICEF and other stakeholders) a High Level Forum on Financing Safe Schools, culminating in a set of commitments reflected in the Abuja Compact.
The Minister reiterated that ‘consultations are currently underway with Sates, Local Governments and other critical agencies of government, the Committee is also working to identify the most transparent, effective and accountable ways of mobilizing and deploying resources’.
The goal, the Minister noted, ‘is to develop a robust collaborative programme that prioritizes plan which would adopt the whole society approach to safe schools and that ‘the National Plan will be implemented in phases starting with Most at Risk States, local Governments, Schools and Host Communities’.
In his address, the Chairman Governors’ Forum, Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, pledged the commitment of the governors in the effort towards ensuring a safer school and learning environment.
Dr. Fayemi declared that the Governors Forum would liaise with the local government Chairmen in the states in ensuring that commitments made towards the realization of a safer school environment were promptly implemented, since most of the schools and children were in the localities.
In his remarks, World Bank Country Representative, Nigeria, Shubaham Chaudhuri, pledged the Bank’s commitment in supporting Nigeria in her effort to have a safer school and learning environment and reduce her out-of–school children but stated that the Bank could only support the government within the context of Nigeria’s priorities, policies and programmes.
Similarly, UNICEF Country Director, Peter Hawkins stated that UNICEF had always supported government’s effort on education and other policies aimed at improving the lives of the citizens and commended the government and Dr. Ayoade Alakija of Emergency Coordination Centre for organizing the Summit.
The Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, represented, assured Nigerians that the Nigerian Armed Forces were committed to safeguarding Nigerian schools and students and urged citizens not to despair as that would mean succumbing to the bandits and terrorists.
There were presentations from Principals of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Government Technical College, Kagara and Government Secondary School, Kankara whose students had been abducted, on their experiences and how the abduction was affecting school enrolment and teaching as well as suggestions on ways of mitigating the challenge.
In attendance were the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laind as well as the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Knut Eiliv Lein and dignitaries from Donor Agencies.
Phil Abiamuwe – Mowete
Director, Information/ Press