United States gives support to Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria
Chibok girls, Children in conflicts, Gordon Brown, Safe schools
The Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria has been backed by the United States – which today has donated $2 million to help the education needs of thousands of children affected by Boko Haram’s reign of terror.
At a ceremony in the capital Abuja, US Ambassador James F. Entwistle joined Nigerian finance minister Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to witness the transfer of the funds.
Ambassador Entwistle said: “The US government is proud to support this initiative. Nigeria’s children who have been affected by the insurgency do not also need to see their hopes for education sacrificed.”
The Safe Schools Initiative is helping children in northeastern Nigeria – specifically in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. In a country where school enrollment rates are already among the lowest in the world, attacks by Boko Haram and the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok has deterred many families from sending their children to school.
Schoolchildren in Nigeria Picture: Susan Quinn/USAID
In the wake of the Chibok kidnappings and other attacks on education, the initiative was launched by the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, alongside the Global Business Coalition for Education and Nigerian private sector leaders. It was launched at the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa, under the leadership of Minister Okonjo-Iweala.
The agreement in Abuja today was also signed by Michael Harvey, Mission Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nigeria, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Coordinator Daouda Toure. The UNDP will manage a multi-donor trust fund to support the Safe Schools Initiative.
Mr Harvey said: “Whether these children reside in camps established for the internally displaced populations or with host communities, a secure learning environment and a quality education for the children and their communities are essential.”
The Safe Schools Initiative will manage school-based interventions, such as the improvement or refurbishment of infrastructure and furnishings, provision of teaching and learning materials, community-based preventative planning and support for double-shift scheduling to accommodate more students.
US ambassador James Entwistle and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Activities under the initiative include increasing the resilience of affected communities and building the capacity of children, teachers and parents to prevent, reduce and cope with challenging situations that affect children’s education. Other aspects include multi-level communication/advocacy efforts and special measures, such as transferring students from schools in “high-risk areas” to schools in safer areas.
Since 2001, USAID education programmes in Nigeria have supported access to quality basic education for girls and boys through teacher training. USAID has also provided small matching-grants to communities, parent-teacher associations, and non-governmental organisations to rehabilitate schools and prioritise community needs. The programmes target public schools, as well as integrated Islamiyyah and Quranic schools, which provide both secular and religious education.
Sarah Brown, president of the children’s charity Theirworld, which made the first contribution to the UN Safe Schools Initiative Trust Fund though its crowd-sourced funding, welcomed the US contribution to the Safe Schools Initiative.
She said: “We are so happy to see that the Safe Schools Initiative is delivering results on the ground in Nigeria and gaining additional support from the international community. The contribution by the United States government is a significant step forward in ensuring all children are able to learn in safe environments and signals the importance of supporting this initiative to the broader development community.”