July 16, 2021
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By JOHN NWOKOCHA, Abuja

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, on Thursday, disclosed Nigeria’s readiness to host the 4th International Conference on Safe Schools Declaration, in October.

The conference which will take place in Abuja, between 25th and 27th of October, is expected to articulate steps to end the incessant attacks by bandits, kidnappers and terrorists on Nigeria’s schools’ facilities, students and teachers and education in general.  According to the minister Nigeria is determined to use the conference to restore the education system.

Hear him: “We are absolutely determined that the conference will be a huge success and it success will also help to strengthen and improve the educational system here in Nigeria and it will really be a win for not just Nigeria but for the global community as well.”

Onyeama said: “As you may already be aware, Nigeria will be hosting the fourth International conference on safe schools declaration which will takes place this October from the 25th to the 27th”.

He said further: “Clearly, the unwarranted task on schools across the world have made gatherings such as this absolutely imperative in order to fashion ways to better protect students, teachers, educators and as well as infrastructure and facilities for providing education.

“I will also like to state that we understand the challenges the educational system is currently facing occasion by insecurity and banditry. 

“Nevertheless, we want to show you the government is doing everything possible ensure that our children can return to the schools without fear of being attacked.”

But Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu was conspicuously absent at the pre-conference meeting, although the ministry of education spearheaded the implementation of Safe Schools Declaration in the country.

News Express learnt that the ministry did not send any representatives at the crucial meeting.

“Mallam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education hopefully will be coming later and he will be shedding more light on the details of the conference and give you and insight to what government is doing in respect of that,” Onyeama stated in his opening remarks.

The Foreign Affairs Minister commended the initiators of the Safe Schools Declaration, saying it is a global coalition to protect education from attack. He said the drivers of the Declaration are working tirelessly to ensure “our schools remain safe haven for students, teachers and educators.”

“I also must appreciate the enthusiasm and commitment shown by our partners and the cohost in particular the government of Spain, Argentina and Norway.

“The have demonstrated exceptional interest in capacity building and also sustaining the momentum of the safe schools declaration globally.

“We are here from representative of each of those countries in the course of this briefing. 

“For your information, Spain was the history of the third of the international conference on safe schools declaration and we look forward to ambassador Ansorena reflection today on the key outcome of the palmer conference and the reflection will guide us as we prepare for the Abuja conference. 

“The Federal Ministry of education has spare headed the implementation of the SSD the safe schools declaration in Nigeria and as you see, all the support they need are from the President Buhari- led government as it is evident fact that Nigeria is the first country on the African continent to host this conference.” 

In his brief remarks, Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Knut Eiliv Lein, said the Declaration has become one of the most effective tools for protection of children add he was happy to see the leadership that Nigeria has taken in preparing for the upcoming conference. 

“I attended the first conference in Oslo in 2015. I was newly appointed special envoy for Syria/lraq, and we worked extensively to find ways to secure access to safe education while the conflict in Syria was worsening. 

“We were strengthening our partnership with other states and organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children, and increased our financial and political support for education, including in crises and conflicts. 

“Civil society and some international organizations, like UNICEF and UNESCO, had rung the alarm bells, and through the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack they came together to find practical ways to strengthen the protection of education. They had identified the military use of schools as a particular problem and developed a set of recommendations known as the Guidelines, to address it. The NGO community approached us to seek support for the Guidelines. 

“Norway and Argentina thought this practical approach was a good way forward. We decided to develop a political declaration between states with a broader commitment to protect education from attack, including using the guidelines to prevent military use of schools. Shortly after we had a cross regional core group where Spain, Nigeria and a few others took part, and we started consultation among states in Geneva, on a political declaration. 

“But even more important, the Declaration has become universally accepted also among those who have not adopted it, and is today being used and referenced in Security Council resolutions, discussions at the HR Council and many other places where protection is being discussed,” he said.

The Argentina Ambassador, Alejandro Herrero, who was represented by Deputy Head of Mission, Victoria Budic, in closing remarks, said protecting schools from attack is an urgent need in a time where humanitarian crisis are becoming more frequent and complex, and resources to face them are more and more scarce.

According to her, “The Fourth International Conference will provide us with the opportunity to renew the certainty that the Declaration is not only relevant for countries in armed conflict but also for the entire international community. The universalization of this instrument, precisely, contributes to the expansion of a Community of Interest that seeks to prevent the military use of educational facilities.”

Budic informed that: “When schools are used for military purposes, at best, children and young people stop attending classes, with all the negative consequences that this implies. But in these scenarios, children are also exposed to other dangers like forced recruitment, abduction, sexual abuse, violence and human trafficking, with girls being particularly affected.

“The complex international reality, worsened by Covid 19, forces us to reflect on how to prevent deep political and humanitarian crises from negatively impacting the well-being and future of humanity.

Holding government armed forces and non-state armed groups accountable by using existing mechanisms like the International Criminal Court, is crucial to combat impunity and to prevent future unlawful attacks.”

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