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Kidnappings: Senate probes $20m Safe School Initiative fund

The Senate has mandated the Committees on Education (Basic and Secondary); and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND to investigate the utilization of over $20 million (USD) funding proposed and budgeted for the initiative over the years.

The investigation would also cover all monies donated by foreign governments and agencies to the initiative.

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This formed part of resolutions reached during plenary on Tuesday after the Senate considered a motion on the “Urgent need for the Restoration and Revalidation of the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria.”

Sponsor of the motion, Senator Stephen Adi Odey (PDP, Cross River North) noted that the “Safe School Initiative” was launched to promote security and safety of schools, pupils, students, teachers, as well as facilities in 2014.

According to the lawmaker, the initiative “was formulated to design and Implement the best of global standards in the educational sector in Nigeria through the employment of qualified teachers, provision of library and laboratory equipment, conducive environment for teaching and learning, as well as provision of habitable classrooms and hostels.”

He expressed concern that, “the unfortunate increase in the insecurity crisis in the country, with the advanced target at schools in diverse locations, especially the regrettable kidnap of the Chibok and Dapchi School girls in Borno and Yobe States respectively, the Kankara School Boys in Katsina State and most recently, the kidnap of students of Government Science College, Kagara in Rafilga Local Government Area of Niger State, have exposed the unimaginable decadence and dilapidation in the schools in Nigeria, drawing inference from the footage; from the school environments.”

He warned that “these ugly and condemnable activities of insurgency, kidnapping, wanton killing and other associated crimes will not abate, especially in consideration of the payment of “Ransom” for the release of victims and as reportedly hinted by the immediate past Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in the course of his continuation as ambassadorial nominee.”

“Also concerned that these incidences of kidnapping school children/students or invasion of school premises across Nigeria have created negative publicity for Nigeria with the attendance loss of confidence by foreign investors in the Nigerian economic climate;

“Further concerned that our Nation has lost a large number of men and women as well as military resources of our over-stretched military to these Kidnappers, Terrorists, Bandits and other criminal elements, including the recent plane crash which resulted in the death of our Air Force Officers who were on an a mission to aid the release of the recently kidnapped Kankara School students and workers;

“Worried that these incidents may instill fear in parents and guardians and force them to withdraw their children and wards from schools or prevent them from sending their children to schools which will in tum defeat the government’s educational policy of ”literacy for all” and further deprive our children of the opportunity of having quality education to compete with their peers globally;

“Convinced that the latest twist in the criminal activities associated with insecurity in Nigeria especially as it relates to the invasion of school premises as well as kidnap of students and teachers for ransom can be contained and defeated through the full implementation of the ”Safe School Initiative” by all stakeholders; and

“Also convinced that the full implementation of the Safe School Initiative will ensure the best of global standards in the educational sector in Nigeria through the employment of qualified teachers, provision of library and laboratory, I conducive environment for teaching and learning, as well as provision of habitable classrooms and hostels,” Odey said.

Contributing, the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) said the recent kidnappings of school children by bandits has resulted in students from a part of the country missing out on education.

“This motion is very timely, especially coming at the heels of the last incident of the kidnap of school children from Kagara Government Science Secondary School.

“Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, we need to take note of the kidnapping of school children.

“We know we are fighting insurgency and the bandits, and the philosophy of insurgency is to the effect that western education is not good. And Whatever is being done to dissuade parents from sending their children to school is something that we must take seriously”, Sabi Abdullahi said.

Senator Orker Jev (PDP, Benue North West) while speaking in support of the motion, said the spate of kidnappings of students would on the long run have adverse affect on the quality of learning and education in Nigeria.

According to the lawmaker, the problem of kidnapping of students can only be addressed when general insecurity is nipped in the bud across parts of the country.

Another lawmaker, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC, Kogi West), stressed that the welfare of school children must continue to be a priority for the Federal Government of Nigeria so as to secure their future.

Accordingly, the Senate while urging the Federal Government to, in collaboration with the various state governments, restore, revive and revalidating the Safe School Initiative in Nigeria, urged the Ministry of Education under the auspices of the National Council of Education to come out with a comprehensive and workable framework for Safe Schools in Nigeria.

The Upper Chamber, while mandating its Committees on Education (Basic and Secondary); and Tertiary Institutions and TETFUND to investigate the utilization of funding proposed and budgeted for the initiative over the years, as a well as called for securing boarding schools with perimeter fence using funds from the Initiative.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, advised the National Council on Education to come up with policies and guidelines that would ensure the safety of school children and students in the various institutions of learning across the country.

“It appears we are focused so much on armed security to be present in the premises. I think we should be liberal to consider how the school itself can be secured, in terms of the perimeter fencing would be, the entrances to the premises, classrooms and dormitories.

“I think these are the kind of things, so that even if you have one or two security personnel there, they would be assisted by the kind of infrastructure within and surrounding the school.

“Probably, that is where the National Council on Education would come in, because let it be a national policy, that every state government – and in that case state governments control the primary and secondary schools and the federal government of course – should have these kind of secured environment.

“But if you emphasize on just armed people, we may never have enough, and that will overstretch our security system again.”

Lawan also called for a probe into the $20 million dollar fund for the Safe School Initiative so as to determine why the initiative was stalled and the level of implementation achieved so far.

“Let me also add, that the former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, came to Nigeria and said there was $20m (USD) that was for the safe school initiative. He was the driver of that initiative when President Goodluck Jonathan held sway.

“And, I agree, our Committee should find out the implementation that took place, what happened, why is it stalled. And the National Council on Education should actually be in position now – given our circumstances recently having abductions in our schools – to come up with some national policies and guidelines on securing our institutions,” the Senate President added.

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