The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to the protection of children in schools across the country.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo made the pledge at a three-day intensive workshop on Advocacy, Girls’ Education and School Safety, organised by the Malala Fund, on Monday in Abuja.
Osinbajo, represented by Dr Fatima Waziri, Director-General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), renewed government commitment towards education development in Nigeria.
Osinbajo said that was why education had one of the highest allocation in the national budget.
He said the government was working hard to close the gap of equality created by COVID-19 that made it difficult for girls to go to school.
“Government is here to support the girl child in every way it can.
“COVID-19 reinforced many gaps in education and made it difficult for girls especially to access healthcare and education.
“The drop in income for most families around the world will mean that families making choices will almost make choices that will disfavour the girl child.
“As schools remained closed during the pandemic, students education suffered while girls are more likely to drop out of school and not return but government recognised that the best interest of a child is paramount,” he said.
The Vice President noted that the need by government to improve access to education especially for the girl child was recently demonstrated by the ratification of the safe school Declaration.
He said the government would put in place a national policy to guide its implementation to protect children from attacks in schools.
Osinbajo said that Nigeria would continue to enact laws and policies to ensure children were protected and have access to education.
Also speaking at the event, a coalition of girls assembled by Malala Fund and Partners called on the Federal Government and its parastatals, security agencies and states to take necessary steps to ensure adequate protection for girls while in schools.
Miss Ugbedeojo Agamah, from Oprite Christian International School, Kurudu, Abuja, and spokesperson of the group, said there was need for the government and other stakeholders to scale up efforts to ameliorate the plight of girls in Nigeria .
According to Agamah, the girls demanded that relevant personnel should be engaged to effectively manage times of conflict in a way that enabled schools to remain unaffected.
“We, therefore, demand that the Federal Government, Ministry of Education, Women Affairs, Defense, security agencies and NAPTIP take the necessary actions to scale up all security efforts.
“They should ensure that decision makers take immediate steps to provide alternatives to keep students learning.
“Investing in making the school premises safer for girls to remain in school unharmed and ensuring their safety while going to school, at school and returning from school.
“We decide to join forces to ensure we achieve safer schools for girls by 2030.’’
Agamah said that the girls believed that educating a girl child prepared her to face the reality of her society and empowered her to contribute positively to the nation .
She said that prior to COVID-19 and the recent increased attacks on schools, nearly two out of three, about 6.34 million of the country’s 10.2 million out-of-school children were girls.
She said that at the start of 2020, over 935 schools in the Northeast were closed due to attacks, adding that many more schools were now closed across the north due to insecurity .
She said that evidence showed that girls were more vulnerable in the face of prolonged school closures.
Agamah said that although Nigeria was a signatory to several regional and international human rights instruments that affirmed the rights to education, the country had no constitutional guarantee to access safe, free and compulsory education.
Also speaking, Ms Omojola Tamilore from the University of Ibadan, said that the workshop was aimed at enhancing girls advocacy capacity on socio-cultural issues affecting girls in Nigeria .
Tamilore said that the workshop with the theme “Advocating for Safer Schools for Girls”, empowered the girls to learn and lead.