At the heart of any education planner’s job is one of the most important aspects of the school environment – safety. It is the provision of a safe environment where children can learn, have fun and feel ownership. It is usually an environment that should provide opportunities for children to act as agents of change for sustainability and finally become future guardians of the world they live in. Every child’s unique qualities and interests therefore is used as the background strategy for the program.
I think about my days in one of the Federal government secondary schools in Northern Nigeria over a decade ago. I remember our long trips to and from Lagos to school and how we looked forward to those trips in our parent-organised school buses. We caught up on our holiday activities, chatted away happily and sang songs to while away time. We had so many activities inside the bus, some of us could not easily fall asleep in the over 8-hour journey. The buses we rode in broke down along the way many times such that we sometimes found ourselves in remote towns or villages at night time for many hours until they were fixed. Passengers were ONLY GIRLS with 2 males – (a driver and an assistant).
I must say that we were unduly lucky. Anything, just about anything could have happened to us! We sometimes got to school very late at night or at the wee hours of the next day to our hostels with mixed feelings of sadness and joy.
Fortunately, and I mean that in every sense of the word, Nigeria had not began experiencing the sensitive issues of terrorism we are going through these days; but these were issues that were certain to arise considering the manner in which national issues were handled.
We were really lucky those days! There were many unrecorded cases of violence on children as still is today. In the face of multiple challenges, the pulse of the problems is usually felt by ordinary citizens who are searching for a basic living wage. ‘Safety’ raises her head.
Our hostels were sometimes raided by what we called ‘a strange man’ or ‘strange men’ as each case was. Men, who in hindsight, I now understand to be nomads. Men who easily walked through our school’s compound at night time during their long journeys. In their sojourn, they passed through our schools and into our hostels because our school borders were not adequately protected. Those were very scary times I hate to recall!
Moving forward into today’s times, I’m deeply disturbed by the abduction of girls from a government secondary school in Chibok almost 2 months ago. Those girls are just like you and I who passed through our public girls-only secondary schools some years ago! The tide and times have changed in terms of governance and we are yet to adjust our systems to protect young children from the harrowing situations that have arisen.
Our public schools are largely unprotected today even after many decades. Safety is a vital part of the school curriculum as is Math, the Sciences or Language. School safety is embedded in the day-to-day administration of any school. Our teachers are not fully equipped to teach students efficiently and are certainly not equipped to groom the kind of global citizen who should ultimately become Nigeria’s future leaders…and yet, we do not have teachers! The teacher to potential student ratio stands at 1:10,000. There is a lot of ‘citizen sensitization’ to be done in promotion of the need for teachers.
School Safety! An issue that had been largely swept under the rug at the helm of affairs; but has managed to raise its head due to the current wave of religious and cultural issues; albeit in such atrocious manner.
It is my hope that as we collectively raise our voices for the safe return of our missing girls, that we charge forward the other pertinent issues that challenge our system of education as a whole. It is something we must do if we are ever going to see Nigeria change for the better. A qualitative system of education is the one key that could unlock Nigeria from these dragging distress.
My heart is troubled. I cannot begin to fathom the varying levels of physical and mental torture our abducted daughters may be going through.