United Nations International C h i l d r e n ‘ s E m e r g e n c y Fund (UNICEF) has expressed outrage over the rate at which children are being kidnapped in their schools, preventing them from accessing education. The Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, who quoted United Nations (UN)’s report, said not less than 950 students had been kidnapped from their schools in the last seven months in the North-West in the last six months. The latest attack in Kaduna, where 121 schoolchildren were kidnapped by an armed group, according to her, was not only alarming but should be condemned by lovers of education and the international community.
These 950 students kidnapped since December, Fore said, included the nearly 500 children who were abducted in four separate incidents across the Central and North-West in the last six weeks. She said most of these children had not yet been returned and that it was hard to fathom the pain and fear that their families and loved ones were suffering in their absence. Fore said security of school children must be guaranteed by state and non-state actors. She said: “It is not enough to condemn these crimes; not when millions of children face a worsening protection crisis. Children living in these areas need concerted actions to ensure that they can safely live and go to school or fetch water without fear of being attacked or taken from their families.
“This starts with nonstate armed groups and all parties to conflict who are committing violations of children’s rights – they have a moral and legal obligation to immediately cease attacks against civilians, and to respect and protect civilians and civilian objects during any military operations. They should also not impede but facilitate the efforts of UNICEF and other humanitarian actors on the ground working to reach vulnerable children.
“The international community also has an important role to play. We need our donors to increase their contributions so that we can expand our work to reduce children’s vulnerabilities and increase their resilience to keep them safe from harm. “These efforts include creating safe temporary learning environments for children in areas where schools have been closed because of insecurity, providing psychosocial support to children affected by violence, and supporting education on mine risk awareness. “Every effort must be made to reverse the spiralling protection crisis for children as the region is on the brink of catastrophe.”