■ Parents, stakeholders, experts brainstorm on how to secure schoolchildren in North East from terrorists’ attacks
From Paul Orude, Bauchi
A 2010 research shows that Bauchi State accounts for 578, 746 out-of-schoolchildren.Experts argue that this figure may have increased due to insurgency. The Sun Education found out that in most communities where education is under severe threat there is no existing model for schools to borrow from on how to stay safe and secured. Most communities are weak and therefore unable to respond appropriately to challenges that threaten the future and education of their children and youths.
It is against this background that a nongovernmental organisation, the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), is seeking to engage communities through a project titled “Promoting Community Dialogue for Safe and Secure and Schools in Nigeria. ”
Its founding Director, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, told stakeholders at the meeting in Bauchi, that the project, with pilot schemes in Bauchi, Kaduna, Borno States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, is supported by the United Nations Fund for Democracy (UNDEF).
In Bauchi, WARDC is working with Forward in Action for Poverty, Education and Malnutrition (FACEPAM) as implementing partner. “While there has been much agonizing and condemnation of attacks on schools by stakeholders, there are no existing measures to guarantee the safety and security of schoolchildren by providing practical guidelines and plans of action in the face of attacks,” Akiyode-Afolabi said.
The WARDC founding Director, in a press statement, co-signed with Director FACEPAM, Jide Ojo, disclosed that they have organised programmes in Bauchi and Tafawa Balewa to promote community dialogue and stakeholder engagement that would facilitate school safety and security in Bauchi.
“The targeting of schools by Boko Haram has made access to education practically impossible in most affected states,” Akiyode-Afolabi said. “Furthermore, there was no policy or programme in place to address the issue of safety and security in schools, while recent efforts are still in ad hoc and mostly driven without active citizens-government collaboration.”
WARDC and FACEPAM, through participation approach, have conducted research on safety and security in schools in the state and found out that lack of school fence is one of the most pressing security needs. She disclosed in a media briefing that school users and communities in the state are calling for the fencing and stationing of security personnel around schools and the creation of security awareness among members.
According to her, among 20 schools visited during the research, only Government Girls Secondary School, Tafawa Balewa, had a security team or committee. “Schools in the remote areas don’t have security personnel around the school premises, nor structured communication plan that can respond to any emergency situation,” she noted.
On safety of classroom, she noted that the research discovered that most schools in Bauchi have overcrowded classrooms with average number of students in a class, ranging from 80 to 100. The research also affirms the non-existence of exit doors and exit signs and most of the schools don’t have parking lots. There are no fire extinguishers in most schools and where there are, most of the teachers have not been trained on their use.
“Most schools especially in the remote areas don’t have reliable sources of water,” she said. She added that in one of the schools located in remote areas the source of water is more than five kilometres from the school. Jide Ojo lamented inadequate responses to these challenges that make schools unsafe for schoolchildren in the north east and North West.
He said the project recommends that minimum standard for safe and secure schools be developed by education sector stakeholders in conjunction with communities and adopted by schools and government as a road map. The project also recommends that community and stakeholders support advocacy and monitoring of schools to ensure safety of schoolchildren. Government should also invest in security of schoolchildren and teachers.
The Project Officer of FACEPAM, Mr. Gideon Dakup, told The Sun Education that the project will focus on Borno (Chibok, Maiduguri, and Konduga), and Bauchi (Bauchi, Bogoro and Toro) in the North East, on each local government with population of over 350, 000 people.
In the North West the project will target Kaduna State (Kaduna South, Kaduna North and Zaria). According to him, activities have been developed for minimum standard and guidelines for safe and secure schools by stakeholders in conjunction with communities. These, he said, include consultative forums, town hall meeting on guidelines for community leaders and head teachers. Others include production of school safety guidelines and plan of action, development of Threat Assessment and Early Warning System tools and production of school safety guidelines and plan of action.