School reopening: UN demands protection for students, teachers from attacks
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The United Nations yesterday decried incessant attacks on schools in Nigeria, leading to the killing and abduction of teachers and students.

In a statement to mark this year’s International Day to Protect Education from Attack, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, said guaranteeing students and teachers protection before reopening schools, which were closed following the outbreak of COVID-19, would help restore their confidence.

The world body, which said 46 million primary and secondary learners across Nigeria were affected “due to pandemic-related school closures”, also called for increased funding for education.

“As state governments plan to reopen schools after prolonged closures, building a resilient education system to withstand future shocks should be included in pandemic response plans,” Kallon said.

According to him, prioritizing safety in schools for teachers and students is an indication of the government’s commitment to protecting investments in the education sector and a validation of Nigeria’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration.

“Education is essential to helping crisis-affected communities in the North-east rebuild and recover. Attacks on schools are a direct attack on future generations. I call on all parties to the conflict to take all necessary measures to protect education and give learners a chance to build a brighter future,” Mr Kallon said.

The UN lamented that the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East had claimed the lives of 611 teachers, with hundreds of girls abducted by the hoodlums.

The UN condemned the abduction of students, school-related gender-based violence, and herders-farmers clashes in the country.

“Schools must remain safe places, free of conflict and violence,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, said in the statement.

“Our collective future as well as the achievements of all development goals depend on it. Safeguarding the right to education for all contributes to the achievement of sustainable development and nurtures the international community’s decades-long gains towards peace, economic prosperity, and social inclusion worldwide.’’

The UN said increased funding would go a long way in mitigating the effects of prolonged school closures on students, especially vulnerable children, including girls and others living with disabilities.

It said: “In the North East, education in emergency partners are appealing for $55 million to provide emergency education to 3.1 conflict-affected children this year. So far this year, only $3.3 million, a mere six percent of the total needed, has been received so far.”

The organization said the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic “is an opportunity to build a resilient education system, invest in human capital and strengthen communities who act as first responders in the event of attacks on schools”.

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