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School safety: Why should the government take it seriously?

Recent attacks on schools, particularly in the North-East and North-West regions in 2021, have led to learning disruptions for over 1.3 million children, necessitating precautionary school closures. This highlights the urgency of addressing school safety comprehensively.
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Recent attacks on schools, particularly in the North-East and North-West regions in 2021, have led to learning disruptions for over 1.3 million children, necessitating precautionary school closures. This highlights the urgency of addressing school safety comprehensively. UNICEF has called for a multi-sectoral approach to improve school safety, informed by the performance of states on the Minimum Standards for Safe Schools. This approach should include comprehensive planning, coordination, and adequate resource allocation, especially in states with higher risks. To complement these efforts, UNICEF emphasises the importance of alternative learning platforms, such as the Nigerian Learning Passport. This digital platform, with over 750,000 users, offers curriculum-aligned materials and is crucial for ensuring continuity of education, especially during school closures. School safety encompasses various measures and practices implemented to ensure the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of students, staff, and visitors within a school environment. It involves creating a secure and nurturing atmosphere where students can learn and grow without fear of harm or violence.

The Federal Government has concluded plans to train some newly recruited personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory as the School Safety Protection Squad to halt cases of abduction of schoolchildren from their schools. This came as President Bola Tinubu welcomed the news of the release of the Kuriga schoolchildren, as well as the release of pupils of a Tsangaya school in Sokoto State, commending all the parties involved in the feat for their valiant efforts. The Defence Headquarters announced that 137 Kaduna schoolchildren were rescued, but it did not explain what happened to the remaining 287 pupils who were kidnapped from the schools on March 7, 2024.

“School safety” has been defined as creating a safe environment for children, starting from their homes to their schools and back. This includes safety from any kind of abuse, violence, psycho-social issues, disasters (natural and manmade), fire, and transportation. School safety initiatives typically include: Physical security: This involves measures such as installing security cameras, implementing controlled access systems, and employing security personnel to prevent unauthorised individuals from entering the school premises. Emergency preparedness: Schools should have protocols in place to respond effectively to various emergencies, including natural disasters, medical emergencies, and security threats. This includes conducting drills for fire evacuations, lockdowns, and other emergency scenarios. Bullying prevention: Schools should actively promote a culture of respect and tolerance and have policies and programmes in place to prevent bullying and harassment among students. Mental health support: Providing access to mental health resources and support services for students who may be experiencing emotional distress or mental health issues is essential for maintaining school safety. Safe transportation: ensuring the safety of students during transportation to and from school is also part of school safety efforts. This includes implementing traffic safety measures, providing safe bus transportation, and educating students about pedestrian safety. Crisis intervention: In the event of a crisis or traumatic incident, schools should have plans in place for providing immediate support and counselling to affected individuals to help them cope with the situation.

The government should prioritise school safety for several reasons:

1. Protection of students: Schools should be safe environments where students can learn and thrive without fear of violence or harm. Prioritising school safety ensures that students are protected from physical harm, bullying, and other threats.

2. Mental and emotional well-being: Feeling safe at school is essential for the mental and emotional well-being of students. When students feel secure, they are better able to focus on their studies and participate in classroom activities.

3. Parents’ peace of mind: Ensuring school safety provides parents with peace of mind knowing that their children are in a secure environment while they are at school. This allows parents to focus on their own responsibilities without worrying about their children’s safety.

4. Academic performance: Safe schools contribute to better academic performance as students are more likely to attend classes regularly, participate actively, and engage in learning when they feel safe and secure.

5. Community trust: Prioritising school safety demonstrates the government’s commitment to the well-being of its citizens, fostering trust and confidence within the community. This can lead to stronger partnerships between schools, families, and the government in addressing safety concerns effectively.

Read also: Teacher abducted with 137 schoolchildren in Kaduna dies in kidnappers’ den — Governor reveals

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