Nigerian president asks Gordon Brown to play key role in Safe Schools Initiative
Children in conflicts, Gordon Brown, Safe schools
Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, has been invited by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to play a lead role in the country's Safe Schools Initiative.
Mr Brown will work with Nigerian officials on the plan, which was launched in Abuja on May 7. The initiative, based on a report produced by A World At School, is a response to the growing number of attacks on education, including the kidnap of more than 270 girls last month at Chibok.
Nigerian business leaders from the Global Business Coalition for Education and the Nigerian government have committed $10million each to a fund to promote schools as safe spaces. The UK government also supports the plan and the fund total is now over $21million.
Starting with 500 pilot schools in northern states, the Safe Schools Initiative will build community security groups. The groups will promote safe zones for education, consisting of teachers, parents, police, community leaders and young people.
In the longer term, the initiative will work in partnership with Nigerian authorities to ensure protection for schools, train staff as school safety officers and provide school counsellors. It will help schools create security plans and work with the government to develop a rapid response system to quickly repair and rebuild school buildings and replace destroyed educational material.
Mr Brown said: “We must ensure that schools are safe for young people to learn and thrive. No child should go to school without knowing that their schools, communities, teachers, parents and religious leaders are doing all they can to ensure their protection. And parents must know that we are doing all we can to make schools safe.
“This weekend I told the president that the initiative can be up and running in a matter of weeks. I also assured him that the international community can be marshalled to support the plan so we can cover as many vulnerable schools as possible.”
He said the initiative is now working with experts from all over the world to develop operational strategies to secure schools in the north that are most at risk. They include UN agencies in Nigeria and UNICEF experts who have implemented similar programmes in other countries.
Mr Brown added: “None of us can stand by and endlessly witness schools being shut down, girls cut off from their education and parents in fear of their daughters’ lives. The education system that has the potential to transform Nigeria cannot be undermined by threats of violence.
“I have sent a letter to the African Union in support of the Day of the African Child on June 16. I have pledged that on this day I will stand in solidarity with the girls of Chibok.
“We will not stop until every girl and boy is in school, safe and learning.”