Nigerians, UNICEF remember Chibok girls, lament damage to girl-child education

Chief Executive Officer of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF), Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode (second left), addressing some of the parents of the abducted Chibok girls at a meeting in Chibok, Borno State …yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

Chief Executive Officer of the Murtala Muhammed Foundation (MMF), Mrs. Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode (second left), addressing some of the parents of the abducted Chibok girls at a meeting in Chibok, Borno State …yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

B’Haram responsible for 1m out-of-school children
• Aisha Buhari to launch book on victims of insurgency
Nigeria tomorrow marks the second anniversary of the abduction of about 276 female students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, with the failure to rescue them and government’s seeming inability to do anything about it, and the devastating effect of insurgency particularly on the girl-child again coming to the fore.

The Minister of Women Affairs and Women Development, Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan at an educational summit with the theme ‘Endangered Education,’ held as part of ‘Global Week of Action’ in commemoration of the 2014 abduction lamented that girls’ education particularly in the insurgency-ridden states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa had come under a serious threat.

“It is unfortunate that almost two years since the abduction of the Chibok girls by ‘Boko Haram insurgents’, the girls are yet to be rescued despite effort by government and support from international community.

“As we all know, since 2009, the insurgency and counter-insurgency activities in the north-east part of Nigeria have displaced over 1.3 million people of which 57 percent are children.

“Hundreds of children including girls have experienced different types of violence ranging from sexual abuse, death of one or both parents and family separation,” she said.

The minister however, explained that government had put in place some measures for protection and access to education for the Nigerian child particularly the girl-child.

They include: promulgation of the Child Rights Act, 2003, and its domestication in 23 out of 36 states; and the enactment of Violence Against Persons’ Prohibition Act (VAPP), 2015, which criminalises violence against all persons and makes penalties for offences

Former minister and one of the founders of Bring Back Our Girls, Oby Ezekwesili, in a speech at the education conference, said the number of girls with access to school and completing primary and secondary education in the south is higher than in the north.This, she described as a major contributor to higher levels of poverty in the northern region of Nigeria.

Giving statistics, she said the average poverty level in the three northern zones is 73.8% compared to an average of 63.3% in the south according to a report published by the British Council Nigeria, in 2012.

“With 60% of the poor in Nigeria estimated to be women and 70% estimated youths, even if we continued to grow at 7% and not the latest lower rate of 2.8% recorded in 2015, we should urgently interrogate the growth structure that is failing to maximize our country’s human capital- women and youths,” she added.

Ezekwesili also stated that only 20% of women in the north west and north east of the country are literate and inequality and its root cause can be traced to unequal access to education.”
And as a fallout of lingering Boko Haram’s attacks in the north east , about one million children have been robbed of education, as the activities of the insurgents have dealt a deadly blow on the educational system of the area.

According to the Human Rights Watch report released yesterday between 2009 and 2015, Boko Haram’s attacks had destroyed more than 910 schools and forced at least 1,500 more to close, with at least 611 teachers deliberately killed and another 19,000 forced to flee.

“The group has abducted more than 2,000 civilians, many of them women and girls, including large groups of students.”In a related development, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has alerted that the number of children involved in ‘suicide’ attacks in Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger has risen sharply over the past year, from four in 2014 to 44 in 2015.

UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said: “Let us be clear: these children are victims, not perpetrators. Deceiving children and forcing them to carry out deadly acts has been one of the most horrific aspects of the violence in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries.”

Released two years after the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, the report “Beyond Chibok” shows alarming trends in four countries affected by Boko Haram over the past two years:
·Between January 2014 and February 2016, Cameroun recorded the highest number of suicide attacks involving children (21), followed by Nigeria (17) and Chad (2).

Human Rights Watch’s 86-page report, titled; “‘They Set the Classrooms on Fire’: Attacks on Education in Northeast Nigeria,” which documents Boko Haram’s increasingly brutal assaults on schools, students, and teachers since 2009 in Borno, Yobe, and Kano states, indicted Nigeria’s security forces for contributing to the problem by using schools as military bases, thereby putting children at further risk of attack from the Islamist armed group.

According to Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, Mausi Segun, the insurgents’ brutal crusade against western-style education, is robbing an entire generation of children in northeast Nigeria of their education. “The government should urgently provide appropriate schooling for all children affected by the conflict.”

In late 2012 and early 2013, as Nigerian security forces expanded military operations against Boko Haram, the insurgents became more brutal, deliberately targeting and killing teachers, school administrators, and education officials. The group also attacked students to keep them out of school and forcibly recruited students into Boko Haram’s ranks.

“Its fighters abducted female students as ‘wives,’ effectively for sexual slavery. As security tightened, Boko Haram adopted suicide bombings as a tactic at schools and other locations, killing increasing numbers of children and school staff,” the report read in part.

In another development, wife of the president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari in furtherance of her avowed commitment to the amelioration of the plight of the parents of the abducted Chibok girls and over 40 Buni Yadi boys murdered by the Boko Haram terrorists, will make a public presentation of her book titled The Essentials of Beauty Therapy at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja tomorrow to bring to the front burner the sad episode.

The wife of the president has decided that proceeds of the book launch will be dedicated towards charities and bettering the living conditions of families of the embattled girls, parents of the deceased boys and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).



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