PREMIUM TIMES in partnership with Strictly Speaking have held the second edition of the recently launched weekly programme, tagged “The Dialogue,” as relevant stakeholders in Nigeria’s basic education subsector have emphasised the need for government at all levels to tackle violent attacks on schools.
They also proffered what they regarded as lasting solutions to some of the major challenges confronting the nation’s education sector as a whole.
Anchored by a veteran broadcaster and team lead for Strictly Speaking, Bimbo Oloyede, the episode featured Judith Giwa-Amu, Coordinator, Education in Emergencies, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Frank Odita, a retired commissioner of police; Juliana Francis, crime editor with New Telegraph Newspaper and the head of development desk at PREMIUM TIMES, Mojeed Alabi.
According to Mrs Giwa-Amu, the community is the most strategic partner for tackling insecurity, saying their close proximity to the schools is a greater advantage for intelligence gathering and surveillance.
She said UNICEF is working towards building the capacity of some communities as part of efforts towards addressing conflicts, adding that the local government chairmen and the governors across the states will also have to be engaged.
She said: “We’re working towards building their capacity in the way they can address conflict sensitive measures including evacuation drills, having plans that are developed at targeting prevalent risks, and cushioning the fears of the student.
“UNICEF is looking at how to bring stakeholders together, by engaging with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum because they are the custodians and chief security officers of their various states.”
On her part, Mrs Francis said attackers of schools are on a daily basis developing new survival strategies and are defeating existing security measures in place. She said one of the best approaches to tackle the crisis will be public prosecution of any one found guilty.
“Once somebody somewhere is publicly prosecuted it will serve as a strong warning to others in the trade. But the current strategies which seem to indulge the criminals cannot be said to be working at all,” she said.
According to Mr Alabi, whatever efforts the partners are making towards addressing the insecurity must be in strong partnership with the media, saying effective communication measures are the key to meaningful engagement of the public.
“They need strong partnership with the media and we need to create that kind of opportunity so that it is not left at the level of discussion but it should be taken to the grassroots. Let us have ambassadors, community representatives who are going to be carried along in terms of this conscious awareness,” Mr Alabi said.
Enforcement of laws
Speaking further on prosecution, Mrs Francis recommended the enforcement of laws, saying the problem with the country isn’t about laws but implementation of those laws.
“We have too many laws and we keep talking about new laws, why not focus on the laws on ground. We have so many laws that are not working because people are not interested in enforcing them,” she added.
Speaking on the safe school declaration, Mrs Giwa-Amu said one of the key actions has been the development of security manuals she noted have have been infused in the security doctrines and training manuals, noting that as new recruits come on board, they already have the safe schools manuals and the need to protect these schools.
“Safe school declaration is against military use of schools for camping, and it suggests that there is no need for security operatives within schools, but around them,” she added.
She noted that UNICEF is looking at the capacity of building the teachers of community members in schools, with good safety practices.
“The training is in conflict sensitive disaster and risk reduction skills, especially for the students to know what they need to do at any point in time and to deal with school emergency preparedness and response plans,” she said.
The participants in their recommendations suggested prosecution of criminals towards getting justice for victims, even as Mrs Francis added that international intervention is needed to implement the child right acts in Nigeria, and the northern region in particular.
“We need international intervention for the implementation of child rights acts in the North, as long as there are out of school children, girls are not safe, they need to be educated and secured.
On his part, Mr Alabi said community policing and the reintroduction of the culture of communalism to the society will help to secure the schools and the communities in general.
The UNICEF official also suggested safe school financing and community-based interventions.
She said; “Safe school financing is very critical in our budget. Our plans have to be emergency and crisis sensitive; safe school financing and community based intervention in their role as gatekeepers because these communities are in charge of the schools.”
About the Dialogue
PREMIUM TIMES in partnership with Strictly Speaking- a media and English Language training organisation, launched the weekly roundtable forum, tagged “The Dialogue”- for education experts, policy makers, parents, students and other relevant stakeholders towards appraising the declining fortune of education in Nigeria.
The weekly forum, which is anchored by a veteran broadcaster and team lead for Strictly Speaking, Bimbo Oloyede, is designed to feature various experts and journalists who have recently published investigative reports on different challenges facing basic education in Nigeria.
The first six episodes of the programme, which focuses on basic education, are sponsored by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.
It is targeted at advancing conversations around investigative reports sponsored by the centre and aimed at mobilising support for meaningful impacts.