How Safe Are School Children During Polls?

Editorial

Tension is thick in the air. The stakes are very high. And the major gladiators and their supporters are throwing everything into the 2015 electioneering campaign, including muck-raking, back stabbing etc. In view of this desperation, we expect that children in the nation’s schools would not be allowed to remain in school until the elections are over. This is because they could end up getting in harm’s way during these tense moments.

Education Minister, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau’s feeble reason for keeping students in school during this period is in bad taste, to say the least. On Tuesday, he announced that because school children lost a lot of ground while schools remained shut over the Ebola scare last year and as such the government could not afford to ask students to stay away from schools during the elections. Which is more paramount: the safety of the students in their parents’ homes or the need to cover their academic calendar at the expense of their safety? Is it not the living that goes to school? Though we do not wish any student or pupil dead, their safety should be of concern to all.

With the volatile nature of the electioneering campaigns, the school children could be caught in the crossfire of violent politicking or even get hired by politicians as thugs to foment trouble. The apprehension of parents about their children’s safety is well founded and those who have withdrawn their children from schools ahead of the polls have taken the right step.

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This is a country with a very terrible state of insecurity and has grossly failed to protect its citizens. At a time like this it would amount to foolhardiness on the part of parents to leave the protection of their children in the hands of security agents who already have their hands full fighting insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crimes.

Even if the heavens won’t fall, parents should not be hoodwinked by repeated assurances by our leaders that the elections would be peaceful. Already, there are ominous signs that a storm may brew before and after the polls. The win-at-all-costs or do-or-die politics still holds sway in our clime and only a wise parent would do the needful by withdrawing his child from school until the storm is over.

In spite of these fears, we believe that everyone must get involved in the efforts to conduct a violence-free, fair and credible election so that at the end, we all can beat our chests and say we’ve made a significant progress in entrenching a democratic culture in the country. Anything short of this is an invitation to anarchy.