By Ruth Oketunde
Four UK charities have teamed up to launch a campaign to draw the attention of the British Government to developments in Nigeria with a view to securing schools in the West African country.
The charities are IA-Foundation, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice (PSJ-UK).
Mrs Ronke Adeagbo, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of IA-Foundation, confirmed the development in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Tuesday.
Nigeria has witnessed 12 armed attacks on educational establishments in which over 1,100 students have been abducted for ransom with at least seven of the students killed since December last year.
The charities are campaigning to get people across the UK to sign petitions to be dispatched to the British Minister, Mr Boris Johnson.
The goal is to persuade the premier, who is a strong advocate of 12 years of quality education, particularly for the girl-child, to show stronger commitment to working with Nigeria in tackling the abduction crisis.
Nigeria is a staunch ally of the UK and a member of the Commonwealth, having been a former colony of Britain, which amalgamated the country in 1914 to give birth to Africa’s most populous nation.
The petition is expected to be delivered to the prime minister through his Special Envoy for Girls Education, Ms Helen Grant, who is also of Nigerian extraction.
The four UK charities in their “Safer Education Petition’’ are demanding that the UK and Nigerian Governments act decisively, to protect schools from terror attacks and prevent further abductions of school children.
The petition which was unveiled in London, the British capital, early this week highlights “the persistent failures of Nigerian lawmakers to help Nigerian students fulfil their potential’’.
It urges the Nigerian Government to implement the Safe Schools Declaration fully and to not just make it a commitment in words but also in action.
Recurring abductions in Nigeria has prompted UNICEF to alert that at least one million students may miss school this year, due to the increase in mass abductions and general insecurity.
From Oct. 25 to Oct. 27, Nigeria will be hosting the fourth International Conference on Safe Schools Initiative in Abuja being attended by the UK government and civil society alongside other international partners.
The petition also echoes the theme of the conference which centres on “Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice’’.
According to Mr Ayo Adedoyin, Chief Executive Officer of PSJ-UK, “every child in Nigeria deserves safe education without fear of violence or abduction.
“We are calling on the UK and Nigerian Governments to do all they can to protect schools from terrorist attacks, prevent abduction of school children and promote support for mobile school units for displaced students.
“We also expect the Nigerian Government to provide aid to vulnerable communities throughout the country and to hold those responsible for violations accountable.”
Similarly, Baroness Caroline Cox, founder and President of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust said that “Boko Haram and other terrorist factions had continued to target Nigerian schools.
“They kill teachers and students. They also carry out mass abductions for ransom, demanding exorbitant sums from desperate parents.
“Public and private institutions are targeted, including Islamic establishments and schools belonging to Christian denominations.
“In some instances, state and federal authorities have paid huge ransoms while in Kaduna State, parents are obliged to incur vast debts, due to the governor’s refusal to pay ransoms.”
In her own submission, Adeagbo said the Nigerian Government needed to increase schools’ budgets to ensure that schools had state-of-the art security infrastructure that would make students less vulnerable to attacks.
Also, the President of CSW, Mr Mervyn Thomas, noted that the Nigerian authorities had responded to the rash of attacks on schools mainly by closing schools.
According to him, this is a blunt instrument that ensures the safety of students at the expense of their education.
“Instead, schools in areas vulnerable to terrorist attacks, especially in northern states and the Middle Belt should be better protected.
“School should be a safe space for students to learn and fulfil their potential even during conflicts,” he added.
The public petition was launched on Sept. 27. It is available view on: https://csw.e- activist.com/page/90511/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=oo. (NAN)