November 06, 2014

First 2400 students to be enrolled in Nigeria’s Safe Schools Initiative

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

About 2400 students from three states in Nigeria hit hardest by Boko Haram's terrorist activities are to be the first enrolled in the country's Safe Schools Initiative.

The first batch are from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, where a state of emergency has been enforced after killings, abductions and attacks on schools.

The move comes just over six months after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school at Chibok on Borno state.

Within weeks of the mass abduction, the Safe Schools Initiative was launched with $10million of pledges by a coalition of Nigerian business leaders, working with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School. The Nigerian government then also pledged $10million.

Finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala today announced that, after talks with the initiative's steering committee, the government had approved a sum to sponsor the education of the 2400 students. She also insisted the government is determined that the initiative will bring hope for parents and children whose sense of safety has been shattered by the violence.

She said 800 children had been selected from each of the three states to be given full scholarships at 32 federal schools across the country. The scheme was voluntary and all had their parents' consent.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala added: "It is a purely voluntary programme. Parents who have said that they would like their children from JSS 1 to SSS 3 to go to unity schools in other parts of the country and elsewhere have made themselves known and we have identified 800 students per state."

She explained the money would also cover expenses such as food and books. Some funds will be made available to parents who will be going to the schools to visit their sons and daughters.

Gordon Brown and President Goodluck Jonathan

Gordon Brown and President Goodluck Jonathan meet in Abuja

President Goodluck Jonathan has had meetings with Mr Brown and governors of the three states. Dr Okonjo-Iweala said the special envoy is expected to also assist in raising some funds in addition to the $100 milion set for the programme.

When the initiative was launched in the wake of the Chibok abductions, Mr Brown said: "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".

Children in conflicts and emergencies is one of the 100-day themes of the #EducationCountdown. You can read more about the campaign here.

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