Commissioner: Govt won’t relent on ensuring security in schools
CP: There’s need to beef up security within the school environment
As the nation battles security challenges following frequent abduction of students and their teachers, the Lagos State Government has embarked on moves that will beef up security in schools
Muritala Ayinla The spate of abduction of school children by the rampaging Boko Haram sect, in the past few years, has continued to raise concern among critical stakeholders in the nation’s education projects.
This is as school managers, teachers and parents have expressed anxiety over the worrisome development caused by heightened insecurity across the nation, which has made the schools unsafe.
In recent times, schools, especially in the Northern part of the country have recorded a series of attacks and kidnapping of the children, which had resulted in the death of some students.
Meanwhile, the parents have blamed the federal and state governments for what they described as incessant attacks on the schools, which they traced to poor security in schools and the society in general.
In the past few years, several schools had been invaded by the Boko Haram insurgents, leaving in their trail sorrow and anguish, even as parents are seeking a way out of the menace.
For instance, the series of attacks on schools and kidnapping of students began on July 6, 2013, when Mamudo Government Secondary in Yobe State, was invaded by insurgents leaving no fewer than 41 students and a teacher dead. Again, when the country was yet to recover from the July 6, 2013 attack in Yobe, another attack was unleashed on the Gujba College on September 29, 2013 in the same state with 44 people killed.
While the pains and anguish of the attacks were yet to ebb, about five months later, gunmen attacked Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State on February 25, 2014, leaving 59 schoolboys dead and the entire 24 halls in the college’s hostel burnt down by the unrepentant Boko Haram insurgents.
Again, on the catalogue of woes besetting the school system, on April 14, 2014 another terror was unleashed on Government Girls’ College, Chibok in Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State.
In the attack, which generated global uproar, a total of 276 schoolgirls, who were writing their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents, who attacked these schools at night, when the students were in the hostel.
However, Lagos State on March 2, 2016 about 8p.m had a bitter taste of the kidnapping saga, when three students of a private secondary school, Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu were abducted by a group of unknown gunmen.
Expressing their displeasure over the development, Nigerians have continued to express disenchantment that this drumbeat of kidnapping has refused to stop, as the nation continued to record consistent abduction of students.
On January 13, 2017, 10 students and members of staff of Nigerian Tulip International College (formerly Nige- rian Turkish International College) located in Isheri, Ogun State were abducted, while another attack was unleashed by the terrorists on the 16th January 2017 at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) when two teenage suicide bombers detonated bombs killing three people, including a Professor.
Again, on May 25, 2017, Lagosians were taken aback following the news of attack unleashed on Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe axis of the state by a group of gunmen that invaded the school. In the attack, no fewer than six students were abducted despite the security in the school.
Yet in what seems like a repeat of the Chibok schoolgirls` attack, the Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi also in Yobe State became a theatre of war on February 19, 2018, when the Boko Haram terrorists invaded the college and abducted no fewer than 111 schoolgirls.
Among the various attacks, the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls received unprecedented public outcry and became a global issue as many interest groups and human rights activists challenged the Federal and government, calling for the rescue of “Our Schoolgirls.”
Though some of these schoolgirls have since been rescued, many of them are still in the captivity of their abductors because of the failure of the Federal Government to secure their release.
The above scenarios, according to stakeholders, undoubtedly are clear indications of rising levels of tragedy besetting the nation’s education system in the last one decade, which if not urgently tackled, would lead to a total collapse of the sector.
The persistent security challenges of targeted attacks on schools in the country by non-state armed terrorists, or criminal groups, they claimed remained the biggest challenge in the history of the nation’s education sector.
“Although security lapses resulting from youth restiveness, terrorism and insurgent attacks, kidnappings and hostage-takings for monetary ransoms, political assassinations, arsons, murders, cult-related activities, mass protests certainly do manifest daily in Nigerian schools, the current spate of insecurity has never been so rife,” the stakeholders alleged.
Presently, every part of the country has had its bitter share and experience of abduction and kidnapping of innocent students, teachers or lecturers, but this could be said to be more rampant in the northern part of the country, where Boko Haram insurgents and other bandits are on their prowl.
From Chibok to Buni Yadi; Dapchi to Katsina; Zamfara to Kaduna and other parts of the country, no region seems to be free from the insecurity challenges unleashed on the country over the past one decade.
Following the attacks on schools, many Governors in some northern states most often had ordered the closure of all schools or boarding schools in the states, especially those in border towns or villages considered to be prone to Boko Haram or bandits’ invasion
To stakeholders, the spate at which school attacks have continued to occur in the country in the last few years has become frightening, especially as the kidnappers seemed to have been motivated by the huge amount of money and valuables being paid as ransoms in exchange for the release of their victims.
Despite that some security experts and studies linked the spate of kidnapping and abduction of school children to the emergence of domestic terrorism, it was noted that school administrators, staff, parents and students have critical roles to play in supporting safe school initiatives.
Piqued by the developmental trend, Lagos State government for one-day last week assembled security agencies and experts, including the police, as well as government officials, where they brainstormed on how to ensure effective security in schools in the state.
Led by the Ministry of Education and the Office of Education Quality Assurance, the government expressed determination to confront the security challenges in schools headlong and to ensure the safety of students and teachers in public and private boarding schools across the state.
The Stakeholders’ Summit, according to the government, was convened as part of moves to beam a searchlight on safety in schools amidst the prevalence of insecurity challenges threatening the country with a view to ensuring that security of the schools, students and teachers is effectively enhanced.
Setting the tone of the stakeholders’ parley that primarily focused on the urgent need to fortify the security architecture of the state’s school environment, the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, noted that the strategic meeting was a result of the prevailing security issues in the country.
This was as she told the meeting that the state government-led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was being proactive by organising the stakeholders’ summit to ensure that students in boarding facilities across the state were safe and secure.
The state government, the Commissioner stressed, was not relenting on its oars in ensuring top-notch security in both private and public schools in the state, but urged key stakeholders and the general public to support the government in every way possible.
On the various security tips to the students and parents, Mrs. Adefisayo urged students not to accept gifts or engage in any form of conversation with strangers, while she appealed to the parents to follow all security protocols put in place by school authorities especially in schools with boarding facilities.
As part of measures put in place to beef up security in schools, the Commissioner warned that security instructions and tips concerning children should be uppermost in the mind of the children, parents or guardians.
Other critical stakeholder at the summit, the Director-General, Office of Education Quality Assurance (OEQA), Mrs. Abiola Seriki-Ayeni, assured school managers, parents and students that the Lagos State Government would continue to put in place adequate measures to tackle the menace of insecurity, especially in schools.
She further said that OEQA, as an office saddled with the responsibility of ensuring quality standards in schools below the tertiary level in Lagos State, would continue to work relentlessly in ensuring the safety of students and teachers in schools so that teaching and learning will continue uninterrupted.
Mrs. Seriki-Ayeni, who reiterated that the government should not be left alone to tackle the issue of safety and security in schools, also said that the doors of OEQA is opened for opinions and suggestions on how to improve on security and education standard as it affects learning outcomes in the state.
In the event of breach of safety and security issues in schools, she added that such complaints should be forwarded to the Office of Education Quality Assurance or to fill the incident report form on the OEQA website www.oeqalagos. com.
As a key player and stakeholder in the security architecture of the country, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, re-emphasised the need to beef up security within the school environment, especially in the remote areas which are prone and susceptible to attack or invasion by hoodlums or bandits.
To this end, he said that the state Police Command had taken steps such as identification of schools, threat analysis, intelligence gathering, multi-agency collaboration, community policing and deployment of adequate police personnel to the schools towards ensuring maximum security and safety in the schools.
On security and safety in boarding schools across the state, the Commissioner of Police recalled that the incessant kidnapping in the country had propelled the Lagos State police command to assess the general security of schools with a view to taking hands-on measures on the school’s safety.
Odumosu, who added that the effort of the state police command to ensure the safety of schools especially those located in the remote areas of the state cannot be overemphasised, urged the authorities to install CCTV cameras in schools, keep the number of security personnel handy, introduce stringent access control and establish security tower where possible, while boarding schools should have a daily headcount at night and morning.
The police boss, however, urged the students not to divulge personal information to strangers and to always endeavour to move or walk in groups within and outside of the school premises.
The Director-General, Lagos Safety Commission, Mr. Lanre Mojola in his presentation, entitled: “Safety in Lagos Schools,” however, noted that safety is the condition of being protected from anything that could cause danger, risk or injury, adding that the general objective of the stakeholders’ meeting is to ensure maximum safety in Lagos schools.
Mojola further explained that schools could ensure safety through the erection of perimeter fencing, security lighting, assess control, visitors management, school and community intervention, and retraining and equipping of security personnel, among others.
Thus, he advised the school management to put in place emergency preparedness and communication processes plans, which according to him, could be achieved through safety management components such as safety policy, safety awareness, safety management and risk assessment.