Education is involved in an existential war of survival as never before has the education sector been so challenged by escalating levels and complex interplay of man-made and natural emergencies. Leaders and operators are grappling, on daily basis, with security threats and risks posed by deadly combinations of terrorism, insurgency, militancy, kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery, cybercrime, scams, communal clashes, street protests, political violence, sexual abuse, fire, examination malpractice,flood and medical emergencies.
The blows to the soul of Education, with fatal and dire consequences, are well documented, publicized and heard around the world. What is not so publicized are the heroic efforts of some high performance leaders and operators who have risen to the challenge of responding to the situation with new protective, precautionary, preventive, mitigation and capacity building initiatives. The story would definitely have been worse if not for these leaders and operators.
Much as it is important to call out leaders who are not doing enough to protect educational institutions, workers and students under their care, it is also important to identify, recognize and celebrate the individuals and institutions making outstanding, distinguished and heroic efforts to promote safety and security of institutions, staff, students and other members of school community by implementing safety and security best practices, protocols and measures.
Across the country, some high performance Heads of Governments, Education Ministries and Agencies and Staff of Public and Private Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Institutions supported by security agencies are courageously rising to the occasion and taking action. They refuse to hide behind excuses of “dwindling resources” , “lack of funding” or “security is the responsibility of Government and Security Agencies”. They are taking the initiative, in the understanding that security is everybody’s business, to resist criminals that have chosen schools as their targets of choice. These are Nigeria’s Safe School Heroes and they stand commended.
Our Safe School Heroes are conducting regular and objective security risk assessment audits of their school environments. They are formulating safe school policies based on audit reports and taking steps to properly communicate policies to members of school community including students , teachers and parents in clear and unambiguous language. They go further to develop emergency preparedness plans ready for activation 24/7 based on identified security risks, threats and vulnerabilities. There are taking steps o ensure that their identification systems and processes for students, staff and visitors are fail-proof.
Our Safe School Heroes are also installing protective physical security infrastructure facilities like solid perimeter fencing and security surveillance tools like CCTV and emergency alert systems. They are deploying competent and trained security guards/agencies certified by Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. They are integrating their school security apparatus with that of Security Agencies and Community Vigilantes in their operating environment.
They are conducting regular security awareness orientation and safe school first-responders training for their teaching and non-teaching staff with a view to developing, entrenching and sustaining a security culture in their school. They insist on due process and due diligence in recruitment of staff and on background investigation, criminal record checks and past work performance verification of all applicants before employing them.
Our Safe School Heroes deserve to be celebrated to encourage them to do more and inspire other stakeholders to join in taking action against the background of the warning by2018 United Nations report on Children and Armed Conflicts to the effect that Schools and health facilities will continue to be targets of choice for terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and other crimes. The report confirmed that “… the most significant violations registered were killings and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals, all of which registered a rise in comparison to previous years”
Teachers in Nigeria particularly deserve the commendation of Nigerians in general and education stakeholders in particular for their spirit of patriotism, commitment, dedication and determination in sustain teaching and learning even in environments of rising and complex security risks and for which many teachers have paid the supreme price.
That parents across Nigeria are now considering availability and quality of security infrastructure, facilities, protocols and arrangements in schools as important factors for choosing schools for their wards is the best endorsement for the commendable work of our Safe School Heroes.
The Annual Safe School Conference is a component of Safe School Empowerment Project, (SASEP) researched, developed and launched (at the National Universities Commission Auditorium) on 1st August 2014 with the support and facilitation of emergency management and security agencies including Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, Federal Fire Service, National Emergency Management Agency. The implementation of the Project has been supported and facilitated by other critical stakeholders including: Nigerian Army, UNESCO, State Governments, Tertiary Institutions, Basic and Secondary Education Boards, National Pension Commission, Premium Pensions Limited. The Project is jointly coordinated by Safe School Academy International in collaboration with Exam Ethics Marshals International and Ethics Resource Centre Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Safe School Heroes will be celebrated during the 2018 Safe School Awards scheduled to hold on Thursday, 15th November, 2018 at the National Centre for Women Development, Abuja as climax of this year’s National Safe School Leadership Empowerment Conference. As a parent, teacher, student or stakeholder, please join in nominating any educational leader you believe qualifies to be celebrated as a Safe School Hero together with profile of his or her interventions and initiatives before 20th October, 2018. (0803 342 5958).
Ike Onyechere, MFR,
Chairman, National Organizing Committee,
2018 Safe School Leadership Empowerment Conference and Awards.
October 8, 2018.