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UN wants more support for Nigeria’s Safe Schools Initiative

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United Nations- UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, on Thursday called on the international community to support Nigeria’s Safe Schools Initiative.

Brown told UN correspondents in New York that Nigeria was facing a moment of truth, when Boko
Haram is trying to engineer a civil war and seeking to prevent girls from ever going to school under their theme that western education is a sin.

“It is time for the international community to wake up to the need to support Nigeria as it takes on this terrorist menace.

“We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear for their daughters’ lives,” Brown, former British Prime Minister said.

He said the initiative would start by building community security groups to promote safe zones for education, consisting of teachers, parents, police, community leaders and young people themselves.

In the longer term, he said, the programme would focus on bolstering the safety of schools – providing school guards and police.

“This would be in partnership with Nigerian authorities, training workers as school safety officers, and providing counsellors to schools at risk of attack.’’

He had called on the World’s key agencies and development partners to agree to the establishment of a Global Humanitarian
Fund for Education in Emergencies.

He said the new fund was designed to ensure that in the future, there would be no months of waiting until aftermath of a disaster or crisis before children can go back to school.

“This is so that when calamity strikes, vulnerable children are not forced to wait in misery and insecurity while the adults pass around the begging bowl.

“Such a pool of money would help the roughly 50 per cent of the world’s children who are out of school.

“We are talking of some 28 million boys and girls, who because of conflicts, civil wars, or humanitarian emergencies, are out of schools”, he told reporters.

Brown said that currently, education accounts for only one per cent of humanitarian aid in emergencies.

This, he said, was in spite of the fact that millions of children were refugees in need of help, not just for days or weeks, but often for years.

He said nearly half of the out-of-school population, no fewer than 28 million children, reside in conflict countries, with millions trapped in refugee camps or tent cities.

Brown said that such funds would help channel resources to places like Northern Nigeria, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Burundi, South Sudan and recently Nepal.

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He said the effort to provide humanitarian aid in emergencies, is just one part of the agenda for global education.

“Just as the International Finance Facility for Immunisation provides front-loaded funding mechanisms for health, we now must consider innovative financing instruments, like social impact bonds, that promise not only to increase enrolment, but also to improve student retention and learning.

“Today, the richest countries in the world spend about 100,000 dollars educating a child to the age of 16.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, an average child from a poor family will receive less than four years of education, at a cost of 150 dollars per year, only 12 dollars of which originates in the richest countries.

“Our long-term aim must be to ensure that citizens of the world’s poorest countries have not only the same educational opportunities, but also the same educational attainment rates as their counterparts in richer countries.

“Only when this is accomplished will we be able to say that the struggle for the right to education has been won, and that we have created a world in which all children can realise their hopes and ambitions”, he said.

Brown described 2015 as the worst year since 1945 for children being displaced.

“No one is asking donors to make education a priority over immediate life-saving responses, or that financing be diverted from other emergency relief.

“Brown today is calling on the international community to support these vulnerable children.

“Brown recognizes the need to take action following the repeated attacks against education in Nigeria.”

“The first step in response to this crisis has been to show our support. The next phase is now to take practical measures to make schools safer

“We cannot stand by and see schools shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear for their daughters’ lives.” (NAN)

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