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April 23, 2024
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Defence Headquarters holds AFN Safe School Initiative Summit in Abuja on Thursday (21/3/24)

Military keys into implementation of safe school initiative

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By Sumaila Ogbaje

The Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has taken steps to key into the Safe School Initiative of the Federal Government meant to safeguard schools from attacks.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the DHQ on Thursday held a Safe School Summit with the theme, “Providing a Secure and Safe Learning Environment for the Advancement of National Development,” to halt attacks on schools.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa, said the summit was to secure positive contributions of stakeholders to the success of the  initiative.

Musa said the aim of the interaction was to develop and adopt holistic approaches to guarantee the safety of children in school.

According to him, the success of the safe school initiative will require utmost commitment of all stakeholders.

“It is therefore in the interest of our dear nation that every stakeholder works assiduously to build a strong, safer, more secure, and prosperous future for our children and our beloved country.

“We must continue to strive to maintain a society where every child has the opportunity to learn, grow and maximise their potentials as well as fulfil their dreams.

“Today’s event gives us the unique opportunity to safeguard the future of our children and by extension the future of Nigeria.

“It is expected that we will make ample use of this opportunity to provide enduring solutions to the compelling security challenge,” the CDS added.

Musa assured that the military was committed to providing necessary assistance for the security of school children and all learning institutions in the country.

He said the Armed Forces of Nigeria would be launching a Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) during the summit to support its operational activities in this regard.

The SOP, according to him, will provide necessary guidelines for members of the armed forces to implement the Safe Schools Initiative within the confines of international and national laws.

Also, a former CDS, retired Gen. Martin-Luther Agwai, said Nigeria has not been spared by the persistent attacks on education happening all over the world.

Agwai said the incessant attacks on the country’s education system, abduction of pupils and students, as well as general insecurity have been contributing to the high number of out-of- school children.

He said the Safe School Summit and the development of SOP reflect the armed forces’ collective commitment to upholding the sanctity of education and creating conducive environment for teaching and learning to thrive.

Agwai added that the initiative must be a collective responsibility of all communities.

The Director-General, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recalled that the safe school initiative was initiated by the federal government in partnership with foreign partners after the abduction of Chibok school girls.

Okonjo-Iweala said the initiative was to ensure adequate operational attention and financing.

The former Minister of Finance expressed sadness that a decade after the initiative ”our children are still being abducted in broad daylight from open schools with little or no protection.

“To save our children and the reputation of our country, we need to move fast to identify communities and schools most at risk and do the maximum to protect them.

“What this entail is to envisage protective walls on infrastructure around schools, especially primary schools, some of which are just out in the open and easy for bad actors to penetrate.

“Involvement of the community, parents, teachers and others taking part in the protection force for the school.

“Parents armed with a mobile phone or some kind of radio device with which they can give warning to security forces to the village and school itself, that danger is abound.

“Solar panels in these schools can ensure the minimum amount of electricity to charge phones and enable connectivity for boarding secondary schools.

“So we must educate and mobilise the community to be involved in protecting the school,” she said.

The National Coordinator, Financing Safe School Initiative, Hajiya Halima Iliya, said the summit was a component of the national plan for the Safe School Initiative.

Iliya said the federal government in 2021 conveyed a high level meeting which decision was taken to address the menace on a more holistic and sustainable basis.

She said that the full implementation commenced in 2023 by establishing the first Safe Schools Coordination Response Center, which was intended to replicate in the state and the local government level.

According to her, the federal government in 2023 funded the project with N15 billion which was released for takeoff and said there must be political will and commitment for the project to succeed.

The Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, Ministry of Finance, Mr Okokon Udo, said the 2023-2026 national plan on safe schools was developed with inputs from sub nationals, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, religious partners and other leaders.

Udo, who was represented, said the implementation of the national plan in 2023 with takeoff grant of N15 billion heralded Nigerian government’s commitment to addressing the challenge.

He commended the defence chief and the armed forces as members of the implementing agents of the safe school programme had hit the ground running since the launch of the national plan.

According to him, ensuring the security of schools is everybody’s business and urged the participants to synergise for the success of the crucial national assignment. (NAN)

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