Amid serious security challenges across the country, the federal government disclosed yesterday that efforts were underway to launch a national plan for financing safe schools across the country.

This came as the World Bank, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Norway and other development partners reaffirmed their support for any initiative aimed at enthroning a secure and safe learning environment in Nigerian schools.

The Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who dropped the hint of the proposed national plan at a summit on ‘Safeguarding Our Schools’ (SOS) organised in Abuja, by the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), said the initiative which would be launched before the end of the third quarter of 2022, was to incorporate state level plans, as well as federal government sectoral plans.

Ahmed stated that this was with an emphasis on ensuring adequate budgetary allocation in order to create a safe environment for teaching, learning, and restoring confidence in the education system.

She said: “We at the Federal Ministry of Finance and National Planning established a committee with members drawn from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including Federal Ministry of Education, the military and other security agencies. The Committee has been working to collate inputs from the relevant MDAs and to develop a National Plan for Financing Safe Schools.

“The plan will incorporate state level plans, as well as Federal Government sectoral plans, with an emphasis on ensuring adequate budgetary allocation in order to create a safe learning environment for teaching, learning, and restoring confidence in the education system.

“Consultations are currently underway with States, local governments and other critical agencies of government, and the Committee is also working to identify the most transparent, effective and accountable ways of mobilising and deploying resources. The goal is to develop a robust collaborative cost that prioritises plan which would adopt the whole society approach to safe schools.”

The national plan, she stressed, would be implemented in phases, starting with ‘Most at Risk States’, local governments and schools’ host communities, adding that it would clearly outline how Nigeria intends to protect her schools and other learning places, so that children can once again return to learning in a safer and more secured environment.

According to the minister, in keeping with its responsibility to create a safer and more secure teaching, learning and living environment for her children, the Nigerian government had taken several steps in this direction.

” As we are all aware, in 2014, as part of efforts to tackle these crises, the Federal Government launched the Safe School Initiative (SSI), focused on enabling children affected by conflict and insecurity to continue with their education unhindered.

“And on 31st December 2019, His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari formally signed the Safe Schools Declaration Ratification Documents, signaling the country’s commitment to implementing the inter-governmental commitment in Nigeria,” she said.

Ahmed recalled that to further demonstrate its resolve and that of the people to address the serious challenges posed by conflicts and insecurity to safe schools, the federal government, in consultation with local and global stakeholders, convened a high-level forum on financing safe schools, in partnership with the Emergency Coordination Center, UNICEF and other stakeholders.

The minister said this culminated in a collective set of commitments reflected in the Abuja Compact in October 2021, adding that Nigeria hosted the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration.

In his remarks, the Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), noted that education is a very strategic instrument.

He assured that state governments were committed to safe teaching and learning through adequate funding to ensure quality learning and quality education.

Fayemi called for the support of community development associations, patents- teachers associations and other stakeholders in safeguarding teachers and school children.

The governor stressed that security was a collective responsibility and insisted that host communities and other stakeholders must be actively involved in this regard.

In his remarks which was streamed live from London, a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, again restated his pledge to mobilise global effort to ensure safe schools in Nigeria.

Brown, who is also the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for Global Education called for information sharing in addressing security challenges, underscored the need to secure schools in order to ensure quality education.

In the same vein, the World Bank Country Representative for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri said education was critical for the safety and security of the world in the future.

Urging the government and all stakeholders to guarantee the safety of children in schools, Chaudhuri stated that Investments in human capital in Nigeria would impact the continent and the rest of the world when the country becomes the projected third most populous country in the world.

He stated that it was incredible seeing the zeal of Nigerian children to acquire learning even in the most difficult circumstances as well as the desire of parents to ensure their children acquire learning.

Admonishing the government and politicians not to underplay education in the face of the impending general elections in 2023, Chaudhuri said: “You have 20 per cent of the time to fulfill your mandate as an elected government, and you still have 100 per cent of your policies to fulfill in education.”

Also, in their various remarks at the event, the Ambassadors of the United States of America, United Kingdom and Norway– Berth Leonard, Catrine Laing and Knut Elli Lein respectively pledged the support of their home countries to ensure safe teaching and learning environment across Nigeria.

According to them, despite the efforts already committed to the goal in the past through their various initiatives, more support and encouragement would be extended to Nigeria to encourage safe and quality learning.

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