SECURING OUR SCHOOLS AND PUPILS
The one-day shut down of the nation’s primary and secondary schools by the Nigerian Union of Teachers on Thursday last week, to join the global campaign against the April 14, 2014 abduction of 234 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, and to protest the killing of 173 teachers in Borno and Yobe States, by the Boko Haram insurgents has added another dimension to the Chibok experience – ensuring the security of Nigerian schools.
The NUT, which described the abduction of the Chibok girls as a stumbling block to the global plan to make education available to all by 2015, had held the rally to ask the Federal Government to declare emergency in the education sector and ensure a conducive and peaceful learning environment through provision of adequate security in all the schools of the federation.
While addressing the press on Wednesday precedent to the rally, the President of the NUT, Mr. Michael Olukoya, had said, “All schools nation wide shall be closed as the day (Thursday) will be our day of protest against the abduction of Chibok school girls and the heartless murder of the 173 teachers.”
The rallies were later held simultaneously in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja to join the global Bring Back Our Girls campaign.
Besides protesting the abduction and killing of their colleagues, the teachers and their pupils have made a statement that the wind of insecurity that has made victims of their fellow colleagues is a national malaise capable of consuming them, the nation and posterity, if not tamed. The teachers and their pupils have also thrown a challenge to the federal and state governments to take proactive steps to forestall further insurgencies in the schools across the nation.
The teachers’ protest is the latest so far in the hordes of intervention by the international community, nations, organizations and relations of the victims who have contributed human and material resources to ensure the rescue of the abducted girls alive from a sect that has declared war against education, the global tool and agent for social transformation, national stability, security, unity and prosperity.
Apart from the civil war, no single event has shaken the nation to its foundation and attracted local and international attention and intervention than the Chibok abduction.
It is unfortunate that, in a world where nations regard education as the driver of development and have continued to invest heavily in the sector, the nation continues to brandish an unimpressive education profile.
While in 2000, the United Nations crafted the Millennium Development Goal 2 “to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary education”, 10.5 million Nigerian children are said to be out of school, up from 10 million in the previous years.
The nation’s budgetary allocation to education is uninspiring, to say the least. As a way of goading nations to give education its rightful place to achieve the desired development, UNESCO prescribed 26 per cent allocation of every nation’s total budget to education. But this nation observes this requirement in its breach.
Nigeria occupied that bottom of the ladder in the 2012 World Bank sample of 20 countries’ annual budgetary allocation to education. While Ghana was ranked first with 31.1 per cent, Code d’ Ivore 2nd with 30 per cent, Uganda 3rd with 27 per cent, Morocco 4th with 26. 4 per cent and South Africa 5th with 25.8 per cent, Nigeria ranked 20th with 8.4 per cent.
The nation’s total budgetary allocation to education in 2013 and 2014 were measly 8.67 per cent and 8.7 per cent respectively.
The nation’s breach of UN Millennium Development Goals and the UNESCO prescriptions for education explain in the main, the reasons educational standard is falling by the day. It also explains why emergency must be declared in the education sector if the nation truly desires a place in the knowledge and technology driven 21st century.
Should the nation look on helplessly while the Boko Haram sect destroys its education sector that is crying for help? For a sect who whose mode of operation is difficult to track down and who is using over 200 girls as human shield, the choices of the nation in the Chibok episode seem limited.
The Chibok saga dwells on the two core responsibilities of government – security and welfare –, which the 1999 Constitution says “shall be the main purpose of Government”. The Federal Government must, therefore, promptly and heavily invest in and ensure the security and education of the nation’s pupils, and, by extension, posterity.
One of the lessons in the NUT protest is that the Federal Government should look beyond the North-east in its search for a peaceful and secure learning environment for the nation’s schools and pupils. State governments must, therefore, begin to explore proactive means and strategies to ensure adequate security for their schools and pupils.
The Federal Government and the state governments should forge a partnership with the nation’s security agencies to ensure training of chief executives of schools, relevant teachers and pupils on personal and institutional security.
Security experts regard intelligence gathering as the backbone and plank of security and policing. The nation’s security operatives must evolve means of cracking the plans of Boko Haram before they are executed instead of reacting each time they strike. They must take advantage of the presence of their counterparts from across the world that are in the country to lend a hand in the Chibok saga to compare notes while also sending their men for requisite training.
There can be no better period for the nation to take a second look at the issue of state police than now. Without a doubt, the existence of local policemen who understand the local terrain, speak the people’s language and live with them would have made a huge difference in the Chibok saga. The Borno State Governor Ibrahim Shettima would have had a police to drag to the scene at the initial stage instead of waiting for an unwilling federal might.
The circumstantial issues thrown up by the Chibok episode should encourage and embolden the members of the ongoing National Conference to recommend state police for the nation.
Having informed the nation that some officials in government have affiliation with Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan should set effective machinery in motion to identify these bad eggs, especially those in the military and security agencies who daily sabotage the fight against the insurgents and bring them to justice. Besides, the Federal Government must apprehend the sponsors and masterminds of Boko Haram and bring them to book.
Securing the nation’s schools and pupils requires a holistic approach. The federal and state governments must give the education the requisite financial, technical and security attention as well as the required political will if the nation truly desires a place in the comity of development-oriented nations.