13th October, 2021
By Jethro Ibileke
Ahead of the Safe School Declaration Conference coming up in Abuja between October 25 and 27, Nigerian women have demanded for safer schools for girls across Nigeria.
They made the demand at the end of a three-day intensive workshop on advocacy, girls’ education and school safety, organised by Malala Fund.
No fewer than 40 young Nigerian women between the ages of 18 and 23 have benefited from the workshop.
The workshop which had as its theme – Advocating for Safer Schools for Girls – was held in commemoration of the 2021 International Day of the Girl, aimed at enhancing girls’ advocacy capacity on socio-cultural issues affecting girls in Nigeria.
It featured crash courses in creative writing, storytelling, media campaigning, social influencing, school safety, and other skills for impact-driven advocacy for the girl-child, even as it focused attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and human rights.
High point of the workshop was the creation and presentation of the Girls’ safe School Declaration by the participants to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and other government officials.
The Safe School Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment, launched in 2015, to protect students, teachers, schools, and Universities from the worst effects of armed conflict.
Amongst other things, the Declaration calls on the Federal Government of Nigeria, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Defence and Security Agencies, and NAPTIP, to take necessary actions to scale up efforts, by engaging all relevant personnel to effectively manage times of conflict in a way that enables schools to remain unaffected.
The girl advocates, through the declaration, succinctly expressed their commitment towards achieving safer schools for girls by 2030, as highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Responding to girls’ demands for safer schools, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, reiterated the Nigerian government’s commitment to delivering free, safe and quality basic education.
Osinbajo was represented at the event by the Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dr. Fatima Waziri.
According to him, “Government is here to support the girl child in every way it can. COVID-19 reinforced many gaps in education and made it difficult for many children, especially girls, to access healthcare and education.
“The drop in income for most families around the world will mean that families making choices will almost make choices that will not favour the girl-child,” he said.
In her opening remarks, the Malala Fund Country Representative, Crystal Ikanih-Musa, said: “Empowering girls to learn and lead is at the core of our work. We believe that when girls learn, they thrive and communities develop.
“This is why we have organised this workshop to interact with girl advocates, hear their concerns and amplify their voices as well as up-skill them to do more for their communities,” she said.
Also speaking on the rise in school attacks and student kidnappings in Nigeria, Tamilore Omojola, a Malala Fellow, noted that millions of girls have no access to safe and quality education due to school closures cum insecurity.
She urged the Nigerian government to intensify its effort in the implementation of the Safe School Declaration as ratified in 2019.