Halted in the Tracks: Insecurities affecting rights in education in Nigeria

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Halted in the Tracks: Insecurities affecting rights in education in Nigeria

Insecurity in terms of abduction from schools and the COVID-19 pandemic have halted slow but positive gains in the Nigerian education sector, impacting negatively on rights in education. Budgeting to secure the learning environment is needed to ensure that the human right to education is put back on track.

The human right to education is key in part because it promotes access to other human rights: for example, without education, rights like the right to health, the right to life and access to information may all be jeopardised. There is, as Veriava and Skelton have noted, growing realisation of the importance of education as a human right. Others, including Hansungule and Onuora-Oguno, agree and seek to increase the profile of the rights-based approach to education. As part of this, it is important to recognise that the right to education encompasses rights in education, that is, there is an obligation to ensure that rights are protected within the education sphere. While the right to education, according to Tomasevski, represents what must be done to ensure access, availability, affordability and acceptability, a specific focus on rights in education draws attention to experiences within the school system, including safety within the school. In some places, guaranteeing the safety of children within schools has become a huge challenge because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however as I explain below it can be a challenge for other reasons too.

Safe schools
In Nigeria today, one has to approach the issue of safe schools from at least two ‘insecurity’ prisms: on the one hand, there are the challenges presented by kidnapping of school children, and on the other, there are the challenges of lack of facilities to protect children (as well as teachers and other staff) from contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools generally became more unsafe due to the vulnerability of pupils and staff to contracting the virus, because of lack of basic amenities. This informed the closure of schools, a situation which UNICEF decried but could not help to change. In a majority of Nigerian schools, lack of access to water and sanitary conditions poses a potential trigger to the pandemic. And high levels of non-compliance with non-pharmaceutical protocols by teachers, who continued with their daily activities, including mingling in crowded spaces (notwithstanding the risk also faced by teachers), have heightened fears for the safety of students

The level of unpreparedness for the pandemic emergency has exposed years of neglect for basic infrastructures in schools. More positively, it provides evidence from which preparedness for the future of the right to education in Nigeria can be evaluated. However, securing a better future for a rights-based approach to education also requires ongoing attention to another preparedness gap: namely, the menace of kidnapping of schoolchildren by extremist groups.

Kidnapping activities by bandits and various extremist groups constitute a huge challenge to the protection of the child within the school premises. In recognition of this, the Nigerian government initiated the Safe Schools Initiative, which is meant to curb the kidnapping menace. However, the effects of this programme are yet to be seen as, sadly, the number of schools shut in the Northern part of Nigeria continues to grow. At the time of writing, statistics suggest that about 14.5 million children are out of school because of safety concerns .

Way forward
We must therefore tackle the challenges of safety in schools in a range of ways—from the kinetic perspective (that is, use of force and supply of security forces) but also from the perspective of ensuring a healthy learning environment.

An integral aspect of a rights-based approach is ensuring that sufficient funds are budgeted for education. Ensuring education can also help to break the cycle of extremism. The pandemic, challenging though it is, provides an opportunity to ensure the revitalisation of education. It is important that we find a way of navigating this.

The first suggestion would be to ensure that budgeting solutions are followed to provide all the necessary amenities required to provide equipment that would make learning possible in this new ‘insecurity’ era. This includes the provision of sanitary facilities required to maintain non-pharmaceutical prevention of the COVID-19 virus. More broadly, schools’ security architecture must be enhanced to ensure that abduction of children from school is reduced if not eliminated. Finally, a promotional campaign by the necessary authorities must be embarked on to sensitise communities, leaders and religious groups on the importance of education, and why education should be shielded from the threats of banditry and terror, as well as global pandemics.

Azubike Onuora-Oguno

Written by Azubike Onuora-Oguno

Dr Azubike Onuora-Oguno is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law in the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, Nigeria and a Teaching Research Fellow at the International Institute for Social Studies, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. Onuora-Oguno holds an LLM in Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa, and a PhD in International Human Rights Law from the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria. He is a Solicitor and Advocate of the Nigerian Supreme Court.

Cite as: Onuora-Oguno, Azubike Chinwuba. "Halted in the Tracks: Insecurities affecting rights in education in Nigeria", GC Human Rights Preparedness, 24 June 2021, https://gchumanrights.org/preparedness/article-on/halted-in-the-tracks-insecurities-affecting-rights-in-education-in-nigeria.html


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