Safe Schools Declaration: NHRC reiterates need for better protection of education

By Emma Okereh

In preparation for the upcoming Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD), which will focus on Ensuring Safe Education for All: From commitment to Practice”’, a multi-stakeholder forum themed, ‘Making Commitments A Reality: Towards the Abuja conference’ was held yesterday in Abuja.

The forum which was organized by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in collaboration with PLAN international and other stakeholders, will further provide a platform for the commission to actualize its mandate towards the promotion and protection of human rights and especially, its mandate to assist the government to fulfill its treaty obligations,.

The forum was also a fore-runner to the October 25th-27th Abuja Conference event. Delivering a welcome address at the occasion Tuesday, the Executive Secretary of the commission, Barr Tony Ojukwu explained that the Abuja conference is the fourth international conference on SSD, a biennial conference for states, multilateral and civil society organizations (CSOs), to share experiences and to present their strategies, progress as well as challenges in making the commitment to safe education a reality for all.

He disclosed that the conference would be the first to be held on the African continent and ironically, a country and region severely affected by attacks on education, adding that the Nigerian experience, and indeed, West Africa will avail the world the opportunity in addressing attacks on education more robustly.

He stated that since the safe school declaration was open for endorsement, 112 UN member states have expressed political commitment to ensure the safety of civilians, preservation of the civilian character of educational facilities and the general protection of education from attack.

The Executive Secretary further explained that President Muhammadu Buhari signed the safe schools declaration ratification document on 3rd December,2019 signaling the country’s commitment to its implementation. Quoting the Education under attack 2020 report, he disclosed that over 11,000 attacks on education were reported between 2015 and 2019 harming over 22,000 students and teachers in 93 countries.

He lamented that the various forms of attacks on schools and educational facilities being experienced in Nigeria have led to the killing and abduction of thousands of learners, teachers and education personnel stressing that ”the need to better protect education is more pressing now than ever”.

He stated that the stakeholders forum will avail ”us the opportunity to lend our voices to the discussions centered on how to devise effective national accountability mechanisms that will deter future unlawful attacks against educational facilities, students and educators.

The two panel sessions will focus on access to justice and prosecuting perpetrators of attacks on education as well as Support systems and assistance for survivor.

He emphasized that the commission’s role in advancing the safe schools declaration has become crucial as a response to the spate of abductions and kidnapping of school children even within the confines of their schools.

The event featured panel discussions, video interlude titled ‘ Education Under Attack 2020. Goodwill messages were equally delivered by the federal ministry of education, embassies of Norway, Spain and Argentina. Nigeria will be hosting the 4th International on the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) in partnership with the African Union Commission, Argentina, Norway, Spain and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) from Oct, 25th-27th in Abuja.

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