Whither Safe Schools Initiative?


The suicide bombing on Wednesday at Federal College of Education, Kontagora, in Niger State, two days after close to 50 students were killed by the militants at another secondary school in Yobe State, is a clear indication that the terrorists have taken their savagery to a bestial level and the Nigerian Government has failed to respond appropriately.

These frequent attacks on soft targets such as schools show, sadly, that the “Safe Schools Initiative” launched in May with fanfare to protect schools and students in violence-wracked northeast has failed or is yet to succeed.

On Monday 10 November, at least 50 students were killed in a bomb blast at a secondary school in Potiskum, Yobe State, as they gathered at the assembly before classes.

Two days later on Wednesday 12 November,  a female suicide bomber detonated explosives within the Federal College of Education, Kontagora. Two students were killed and several others injured.

The latest blast was said to have occurred at 12.15 p.m. around the school’s library as students busied themselves with assignments.  It was only after the blast that the school was shut and taken over by security operatives who were nowhere in sight before the attack.

These two blasts within days may be pointing to something darker in the coming weeks or months as Boko Haram targets more schools and kills more students.

The blasts also raise questions about the Safe Schools Initiative  launched on 7 May in Abuja by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, a coalition of Nigerian business leaders and the Federal Government to protect hundreds of schools in northern Nigeria from deadly attacks.

The Safe Schools Initiative was launched after over 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram at a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, on 14 April and after dozens of schoolboys were shot dead in their sleep in Yobe State in  February.

Related News

Starting with 500 pilot schools in northern Nigeria, the Safe Schools Initiative was meant to build community security groups to promote safe zones for education. The groups were to be made up of teachers, parents, police, community leaders and young people themselves.

Nigerian business leaders committed $10 million to a fund to promote schools as safe spaces, a sum matched by the Nigerian government.  The government of the United Kingdom also announced it would commit one million pounds to the initiative.

The Safe Schools Initiative was meant in the longer term to provide school guards and police in partnership with Nigerian authorities, train staff as school safety officers, provide counsellors, help schools set up security plans and develop rapid emergency response mechanisms.

These response units would quickly repair or rebuild school buildings and replace destroyed educational materials.  But the whole project seems to be falling apart as the two school bombings on Monday and Wednesday show.

When the terrorists showed up on Monday and Wednesday, there was nothing to deter them. They detonated explosives and inflicted the pain and agony they had planned without being challenged.

The killing of so many students who were only trying to acquire an education is a national tragedy and shows clearly that Boko Haram is only made up of murderers who feel good spilling innocent blood from the weakest of Nigerians.  The act is condemnable and the government cannot allow the terrorists to have a field day and conquering one territory after another in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

It is our opinion that a government that cannot protect its weakest citizens does not have any business being in power.  The President Goodluck Jonathan administration should demonstrate that it protect Nigerians by routing the rampaging terrorists. What Boko Haram is doing is worse than what led to the civil war in 1967, yet everybody is blissfully pretending as if everything is fine.

Load more