By Lizzy Okoji
Abuja -UNICEF said on Tuesday that more than one million out-of-school children in insurgency-ravaged North East Nigeria had in the past one year been empowered to access quality education in a safe environment.
Dr Judith Giwa-Amu, UNICEF’s Education Officer responsible for Education in Emergencies (EIE) Coordination at National level disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Giwa-Amu said UNICEF and partners had developed several programmes to ensure quality and safe environment for children in conflict zones, taking cognizance that “education is protection and lifesaving”, and could prevent children from being recruited into armed groups.
She said that UNICEF had initially targeted 1.5 million children to benefit from the programme but was able to effectively reach only one million children.
She disclosed that in conflict-affected Benue in the North Central zone, 11,000 children out of the earlier targeted 12,000 children have also been supported to access quality education in a safe environment.
“We are very aware of the fact that education is protection.
“It is actually life-saving because when children are engaged in education, they are not on the road to be recruited, to be abducted, to be kidnapped.
“We recognise that when you talk of humanitarian response, there is the need to capture the most severe area.
“Sometimes it looks like it is only the North East but the cases in the Northeast are very severe, the numbers are very high.
“You have over 1.5 million children that are out of school and that is before COVID-19 and there are so many programmes aside UNICEF.
“So we have brought in so many programmes not only in the North East and in the North Central zones, specifically Benue, where we have issues of communal clashes between herders and farmers as a result of climate-change-related competition for natural resources.
“UNICEF is one of the key responders. Out of a target of 12,000, we were able to reach about 11,000.
“That is to say about 99 per cent was reached in that particular intervention and looking at restoration of educational opportunities to children that have been affected by conflicts in the North Central zones.
“But in the North East, with a target of over 1.5, we have reached over 1 million children with support to access quality education in a safe environment and also sustainability towards continuation beyond the end of the programme,” Giwa-Amu said.
Giwa-Amu said that the Federal Ministry of Education and key stakeholders had identified access to quality education and safe environment as a crucial issue requiring attention.
According to her, access includes every kind of activity that can inform the child’s return and retention in school.
“In the Education in Emergency Working Group under the education sector, we have international NGOs, Civil Society Organisations, and government organisations.
“The Ministry of Defence is part of us.
“We have humanitarian response programs that we come together and implement and for us to implement these programs, we have what we call a needs assessment.
“It identifies what the key issues are, what the numbers are, and what will be the best strategies to adopt to address these issues.,” she added. (NAN)