Sarah Brown: real progress has been made on Safe Schools in Nigeria

Chibok girls, Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Safe schools, Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education, This article was first published on the GBC-Ed website.

It is now 500 days since the young Chibok girls were abducted from their school in northeastern Nigeria as Boko Haram set out to destroy their lives and sent a message of terror in opposition to girls’ education.

The world responded to the faces of the mothers, fathers, family and friends holding up their signs of protest to implore the action to #BringBackOurGirls. While 57 girls escaped to tell their story and to rebuild their shattered lives, we must remember the 219 still missing and consider what more can be done for their rescue and to keep all girls safe in school.

Within weeks of the kidnapping the Global Business Coalition for Education played a leading role in launching the Safe Schools Initiative with the first $10 million contribution made by Nigerian business leaders active in our membership and network. This was followed by a further $10 million contribution from the government of Nigeria. 

A World at School launched a campaign on Safe Schools targeting the donor community. As the NGO behind this campaign, Theirworld‘s community made the first donation to a UN Multi-Donor Trust Fund to support activities in the three states of emergency in the north, including children internally displaced from the conflict.

This jump-started a new donor platform, which can receive funding from a variety of sources and deliver on specific targets of the Safe Schools programming.  To date, campaign efforts have led to donors such as the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Germany and African Development Bank having contributed more than $10 million in additional funding to UNICEF, the new UNDP Multi-donor Trust Fund for Safe Schools or to other Safe Schools programme activities. 

At the 500-day mark, we use this moment and look at what has been achieved by the Safe Schools Initiative. At the state level, State Coordination Committees-SCCs have been set up to coordinate and oversee Safe Schools Initiative activities in in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. Some of the results to date include:

Students Transfer Programme

The transfer programme relocates school children from high security risk areas to schools in safer parts of the country.  This program also involves the provision of guidance counseling and psychological support for school children and their families who have been traumatised by the attacks from insurgents.

The pilot phase transferred 2400 students to government schools in safer areas. Most of the transferred students have quickly adapted and are excelling in their various academic endeavors.

Schools Remodeling/Reconstruction Programme

The reconstruction programme involves upgrading schools infrastructure (including solar power to ensure that schools are well lit), establishing proper fencing, alarm system, and community-based policing, and developing school security plans and rapid response systems.

Three pilot schools were identified and have been thoroughly assessed for rehabilitation. The assessment was carried out by the programme in collaboration with the Nigerian Army Corps of Engineers and the state governments.  The Nigerian government also approved the reconstruction/rehabilitation of Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok as part of the Safe Schools Initiative.

Picture: UNICEF/Esiebo

Innovative Education Strategies for communities and camps absorbing Internally Displaced People

Given that the insurgency has forced many to flee their homes, the Safe Schools Initiative has promoted the creation of safe learning spaces through double-shift schooling in host communities, mobilisation of volunteer teachers and provision of temporary classrooms.

As of May, a total of 47,952 children have been supported through this programme and learning support and teaching materials have been distributed, including 35,000 school bags.

To date, 683 teachers have been trained in pedagogy and methodology to facilitate the teaching of internally displaced children in the double-shift schools.

Temporary learning spaces have been also been set up with 90 tents distributed or procured to provide learning spaces in camps, and to set up ECD classrooms and additional space for double-shift schools in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe states where there is a shortage of safe learning space.

This is a fair achievement for a short space of time and there are a lot of learning opportunities to keep improving the Safe Schools Initiative aimed at widening its scope to attract new partners to fund, support, promote and reach more children with quality and safe learning opportunities.

But 500 days is a dreadfully long time for the captured girls – our thoughts are with them today and we shall not forget nor give up on them too.

500-day vigils held for Chik girls.

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