Safe school: Nigeria to host international conference on incessant attacks

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed Nigeria’s readiness to host the 4th International Conference on Safe Schools Declaration, in October.

The conference which will take place in Abuja, between 25 and 27, October, is expected to address steps to end the incessant attacks by bandits, kidnappers and terrorists on Nigeria’s schools’ facilities, students and teachers and education in general.

Speaking at a press briefing on the forthcoming conference, Onyema said Nigeria was determined to use the conference to restore the education system.

“We are absolutely determined that the conference will be a huge success and its success will also help to strengthen and improve the educational system here in Nigeria and it will really be a win for not just Nigeria but for the global community as well.”

Onyeama further said: “As you may already be aware, Nigeria will be hosting the fourth International conference on safe schools declaration which will take place this October from the 25 to the 27.”

Onyema stressed that clearly, the unwarranted attacks on schools across the world have made gatherings such as this absolutely imperative in order to fashion ways to better protect students, teachers, educators and as well as infrastructure and facilities for providing education.

“I will also like to state that we understand the challenges the educational system is currently facing occasion by insecurity and banditry.”

“Nevertheless, we want to show you the government is doing everything possible to ensure that our children can return to the schools without fear of being attacked.”

“Mallam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education hopefully will be coming later and he will be shedding more light on the details of the conference and give you an insight to what government is doing in respect of that”

Onyeama commended the initiators of the Safe Schools Declaration, saying it is a global coalition to protect education from attack.

He said the drivers of the Declaration are working tirelessly to ensure “our schools remain safe haven for students, teachers and educators.

“The Federal Ministry of education has spare headed the implementation of the SSD the safe schools declaration in Nigeria and as you see, all the support they need are from the President Buhari- led government as it is evident fact that Nigeria is the first country on the African continent to host this conference.”

In his remarks, the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Knut Eiliv Lein, said the Declaration has become one of the most effective tools for the protection of children add he was happy to see the leadership that Nigeria has taken in preparing for the upcoming conference.

“Civil society and some international organizations, like UNICEF and UNESCO, had rung the alarm bells, and through the Global, Coalition to Protect Education from Attack they came together to find practical ways to strengthen the protection of education.

“They had identified the military use of schools as a particular problem and developed a set of recommendations known as the Guidelines, to address it. The NGO community approached us to seek support for the Guidelines.

“Norway and Argentina thought this practical approach was a good way forward. We decided to develop a political declaration between states with a broader commitment to protect education from attack, including using the guidelines to prevent military use of schools. Shortly after we had a cross-regional core group where Spain, Nigeria and a few others took part, and we started consultation among states in Geneva, on a political declaration.

In his closing remarks, Argentine Ambassador, Alejandro Herrero, who was represented by Deputy Head of Mission, Victoria Budic, said protecting schools from attack is an urgent need in a time where humanitarian crises are becoming more frequent and complex, and resources to face them are more and more scarce.

According to Budic, “the Fourth International Conference will provide us with the opportunity to renew the certainty that the Declaration is not only relevant for countries in armed conflict but also for the entire international community.

“The universalization of this instrument, precisely, contributes to the expansion of a Community of Interest that seeks to prevent the military use of educational facilities.”

Budic pointed out that when schools are used for military purposes, at best, children and young people stop attending classes, with all the negative consequences that this implies.

“But in these scenarios, children are also exposed to other dangers like forced recruitment, abduction, sexual abuse, violence and human trafficking, with girls being particularly affected.”

“The complex international reality, worsened by Covid-19, forces us to reflect on how to prevent deep political and humanitarian crises from negatively impacting the well-being and future of humanity.

“Holding government armed forces and non-state armed groups accountable by using existing mechanisms like the International Criminal Court, is crucial to combat impunity and to prevent future unlawful attacks.”

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