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Boko Haram attacks on schools

The attacks on some schools in the northern part of the country reinforce calls for governments and other operators of academic institutions in the embattled states to take urgent steps to secure their facilities and safeguard the lives of the children who have become the innocent targets of the mindless killings of the Boko Haram insurgents.
Recently at the Government Science School, Potiskum, Yobe state, a suicide bomber dressed in school uniform detonated explosives in a packed assembly meeting killing about 47 students and injuring nearly 100 others all between the ages of 11 and 16 as they were waiting to hear the principal’s Monday morning address.
Two days after the Potiskum attack, a female suicide bomber hit the Federal College of Education, Kontagora in Niger State killing two students and injuring scores of others.
The attacks not only call to question the willingness and ability of governments and other operators of schools in the troubled parts of the country to protect the lives of the children who are put in their care, but is also a big slap on the face of the Safe Schools Initiative launched on  May 7 this year in Abuja by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister, Mr. Gordon Brown, along with a coalition of Nigerian business leaders and the Federal Government. The initiative is meant to protect schools in northern Nigeria from deadly attacks.
The fanfare which accompanied the launch which saw Nigerian business leaders pledging $10 million to a fund to promote schools as safe spaces, with the Federal Government setting aside the same amount, had barely died down before the resumption of these deadly attacks on schools and innocent children.
The Safe Schools Initiative is meant, in the long term, to provide school guards and Police operatives, train staff as school safety officers, provide counsellors, help schools set up security plans and develop rapid emergency response mechanisms.
The need to fast track the implementation of the objectives of the Safe Schools Initiative has become evident with the latest attacks and with the worrying reports that the attacked Government Science School, Potiskum, lacked basic perimeter fencing and any screening mechanism that would have deterred, to some extent, such attacks. The School, in effect, was a disaster waiting to happen, in an already challenged environment like the North East geo-political zone.
Recall also that in February this year, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents killed at least 40 students after throwing explosives into the dormitory of a government boarding school in Buni Yadi, in Yobe state. And in July last year, 42 students were killed when Boko Haram attacked dormitories in a gun and bomb attack on another government boarding school in the village of Mamudo, near Potiskum.
This is apart from the high-profile attack on the Chibok Girls Secondary School, Borno State in April, during which incident the insurgents kidnapped 276 girls from the school. More than six months after, 219 of the girls are still being held.
Apparently to enforce their aversion for western education (their name, Boko Haram, means western education is forbidden) the insurgents have made schools and students a major target of their campaign of terror. They clearly want to make schools unattractive for both students and their parents. Governments at the various levels should come to terms with this and initiate measures aimed at safeguarding the lives of the children, who are also the leaders of tomorrow.
We join the United Nations Education Fund, UNICEF, in condemning these mindless attacks in the strongest of terms. UNICEF, in reaction to the Potiskum incident said that:
“These repeated and relentless attacks on children and schools are attacks on the future of Nigeria, a country that already has the largest number of children out of school in the world. We call on those with the responsibility and power to bring the perpetrators of this cruel act to justice, and to uphold their responsibilities to protect children.”
It is, indeed, ridiculous that Boko Haram that is on a mindless mission to obliterate Western education practically depends on by-products of western education as tools to advance its diabolical cause.
Education is the future of the world, and Nigeria is not excluded, therefore, safeguarding the lives of students and the aspirations of children to be educated should be of utmost priority to all stakeholders in the education sector.
Shutting down schools arbitrarily would not guarantee these, except where such cannot be helped. But erecting perimeter fences, providing gadgets like hand-held or installed metal detectors, deploying security personnel to public and private schools, mounting close-circuit televisions, providing identity cards for all students, and such other security measures, can, however, go a long way and must be put in place immediately, in all schools, especially in the northern parts of the country, to secure the children and their future

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