Section 18(1) of the Nigeria Constitution and item 60 (a) in Part 1 of the second schedule together with compulsory Free Universal Basic Education Act of 2004(The UBE Act) guarantee safe and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. The African Charter on Human and People Rights Section 17 also guarantee the Rights to Education in safe and protected environment.
Section 15(1) of the Child Right Act provides that (E)very child has the rights to free Compulsory and Universal Basic Education and it shall be the duty of Government in Nigeria to provide such education.
Furthermore, Sections 16,27,28 and 32 guaranteed every child in need of special protection as is appropriate to the child’s physical, social, economic, emotional and mental needs; it guarantees with penal sanctions the rights of a child against abduction;the rights of children against forced or exploitative labour as well as rights of children against sexual abuse or exploit.
However, despite this Constitutional provisions, the issue of Safe School has been threatened in Nigeria especially in the North East by armed militant in the name of Boko Haram attacking Educational institutions. Child protection in emergencies (CPiE) as a response to abuse,neglect,exploitation and violence against children in time of emergency caused by natural or man made disaster, conflict or other crises has therefore become a major national discourse.
It is in view of this that the Safe School Declaration is of serious concern among civil societies, educationists and Government. Many issues have emerged from attacks on Schools in the North East, this include abduction of Women and girls from schools, boys forced to become fighters, over 1,400 schools destroyed, while estimated 2,295 teachers have been killed, 19,000 displaced and 600,000 children loss access to education. The Military who are protecting the people in crisis often time take over education facilities as base thereby making the Schools target of attacks and exposes students to abuses.
Rising from a meeting in Abuja recently, Stakeholders in education security and safety of schools called for a review of the Armed Forces Act to incorporate the Safe School Declarations.The meeting attended by Civil Societies Organizations, representatives of Ministries of Education, Women Affairs, National Orientation Agency, National Defence College, the Media and the Academic from the Six Geo political Zones of the Country was of the opinion that the Safe school Declaration, an international instrument which Nigeria endorsed in 2015 and seek to protect educational institutions from been used as military base in time of crisis should be incorporated into our laws.
While commending the Nigeria Armed Forces and other paramilitary organisations for their effort to return peace to the North East in particular and other crises affected parts of the Country, participants noted that temporary conversion of Schools to military base exposes such institutions to attack more than being a safe abode. “Explicit protection of Schools from military use is now accepted norm world wide. Of the 49 Countries surveyed in 2011 by Human Right watch, 27 have adopted explicit protection of Schools from military use” Participants called for the need to bring Nigeria domestic law in line with her international obligation by explicitly protecting Schools from military use.
The Proposal for Review of Armed Forces Act in sub section 3 to Section 216 of the Act is as follow; ” No premises or building or part therefore occupied for educational purposes or accommodation or person connected with the management of Schools or vehicles and other facilities of education institutions shall be requisitioned “ This Section will support Safe School Declaration intention to discouraged the use of Education institutions for military purpose.
The United Nations has consequently repeatedly called on all States to take concrete measure to deter the Military use of Schools in particular in Resolutions 2143, 2225 and most recently in Resolution 2427(2018). Explicit protection of Schools from Military use is now the acceptable norms worldwide, of 49 Countries surveyed in 2011 by Human Rights Watch, 27 have explicit protection of Schools from military use. The United Kingdom where Nigeria inherit much of military laws and doctrines has also joined the list of countries explicitly schools from military use.