Nigeria’s Children’s Parliament has appealed to the government to see to the implementation of the Safe Schools declaration to ensure the safety and security of children and their schools across the country.
Ibrahim Sanna Sunoma, Speaker of the Borno State Children Parliament, said the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration would put an end to all the attacks against children as well as other acts violating their fundamental rights.
“We are now pushing for the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration, which if indeed implemented will cater to all these problems of safe school, and attacks on schools,” Sunoma said in Abuja on Thursday, May 26, during a press conference to mark the end of a 2-day capacity building training for principal officers of state children’s parliament and girl ambassadors, organised by the Save the Children International.
“We commend the efforts of the government at all levels in promoting the rights of children through policy formulation and laws. We ask the government, partners and all Nigerians to ensure speedy implementation of the Child Rights Act. We also implore the government to expedite action on the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration.”
The Nigerian government, in March 2019, ratified the Safe Schools Declaration but has yet to implement it nationwide.
The Safe Schools Declaration is an intergovernmental political commitment that provides countries with the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools and universities from attack during armed conflict.
It highlights the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict and the implementation of concrete measures to deter the military use of schools.
The Safe Schools Declaration was opened for endorsement by countries at an international conference held in Oslo, Norway, from May 28 to May 29, 2015.
Since Dec. 2020, 1,436 school children and 17 teachers have been abducted from schools, and 16 school children lost their lives, according to UNICEF in a report in April 2022.
“Unsafe schools, occasioned by attacks on schools and abduction of students, are reprehensible, a brutal violation of the rights of the victims to education, and totally unacceptable. Their occurrences cut short the futures and dreams of the affected students,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
Demands by the children’s parliament
As they joined their peers across the world to mark this year’s Children’s Day, the Nigerian Children’s Parliament urged the government to equip security forces with tools to protect children from attacks.
Sunoma, who read the parliament’s resolutions, said stronger security strategies should be in affected areas.
“To help prevent attacks on schools, cattle ranching should be implemented to prevent cattle-herder crises, and more security personnel should be deployed to affected areas,” he said.
He added that there should be legislation and implementation of the Child Rights Act, free education for all. At the same time, the government should raise awareness on the consequences of early marriage that alter the course of a girl’s life and her potential.
Speaking also, Etukudo Abasi, Speaker of the Cross Rivers State, South-south Nigeria, Children’s Parliament, said child marriage was both the cause and a result of poor education of girls in Nigeria, with over 10 million out of school children in the country, of which over 60 per cent are girls.
“Despite the Compulsory Free and Universal Basic Education Act of 2004, lack of access to quality, free, safe, uninterrupted and inclusive education for girls remains a big driver of child marriage,” Abasi said.
She added that while the domestication of the Child Rights Act was a critical step to stopping the war on girls, it should also be backed by financial and human resources for its full implementation to provide a favorable environment in which children could realize and release their full potential.
“Over 7000 girls and women were subjected to sexual violence inflicted by non-state armed groups, many of whom gave birth to children.”
“Non-state armed groups have used child marriage as a weapon of war. They kidnap school girls and forcefully marry them off to their soldiers as an incentive.”
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