Safe School Centre registers 528 schools, 10 years after commencement of Initiative

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By Kelechi Ogunleye
Some key stakeholders implementing the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria have spoken on the journey so far since the initiative was launched 10 years ago in May 2014.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the initiative was in response to the violent attacks on schools in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa by the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

In May 2014, the Federal Government, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and a coalition of Nigerian business leaders jointly inaugurated the Safe Schools Initiative.

This was followed by the inauguration of the Safe Schools Fund with a contribution of 10 million dollars by the Federal Government and another 10 million dollar pledge from the Private Sector.

However, it was not until December 2019 that former President Muhammadu Buhari signed the safe schools declaration ratification document, which was followed by the inauguration of a N144. 8 billion Safe Schools Financing Plan in December 2022.

In between, not less than 1,800 students have been abducted and many schools deserted, especially in the North-West and North-East of the country due to attacks by terrorists.

So far, according to the National Safe School Response Coordination Centre (NSSRCC), only 528 schools across the country have registered with the centre.

NAN recalls that a Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) schools vulnerability assessment conducted in 2021 in 81,000 schools, revealed that 80 per cent of the schools were porous.

Hammed Abodurin, the Commander of the NSSRCC, agreed that the figure of schools registered so far, was relatively low, but was positive it would increase before the end of the year.

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He said that the registration was to bring such schools under the centre’s protection net.

“There is a website: www.nssrcc.gov.ng available for the registration and the centre emergency numbers are: 09131232323 and 09132232323,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mrs Halima Iliya, National Coordinator, Financing Safe School Initiative, says the project is work in progress and the country will in due course have safer schools.

Iliya said N15 billion was released in 2023 for various interventions, while discussions were ongoing to make funds available for 2024 interventions.

“Looking at the duration between late last year and now, you may not feel the impact of the implementation take-off yet, because it is still ongoing.

“N15 billion was released last year but for this year discussions are ongoing to make funds available.

“The good thing is that the national plan for financing safe schools has global acceptance and has the commitment of all internal sources of funding,” she added.

According to the national coordinator, states governments have already keyed into the project and made provisions in their 2024 budgets for implementation of the initiative.

“We are also working on harmonising the Standard Operating Procedure of the center with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other security agencies to make the job easier to protect schools seamlessly.

“The programme is huge but we will not relent until we achieve the goal and objective of the national plan,” Iliya assured Nigerians.

Dr Ahmed Audi, Commandant General of NSCDC, said it was not true that the corps, being the lead agency in the protection of schools, had failed in fulfilling its mandate.

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Audi clarified that the safety of schools nationwide was a collaborative effort among state governments, security agencies, communities, schools and other stakeholders.

“State governments have a critical role to play in providing education to residents in their states.

“We expect them to establish an equivalent center that will collaborate with the NSSRCC for information dissemination and responses,” he said.

He, however, commended some of the states that had indicated interest and others that donated buildings for the establishment of safe school response centres in their states.

“In the coming years when states finally key into this programme, we will have better headway in eradicating insecurity in schools.

“The corps is working assiduously to ensure that schools are protected,” Audi added. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Deborah Coker/Maharazu Ahmed

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