A report of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) says the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country, increased from 1.5 million to 2.1 million in July this year.
Corroborating the report, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said that more than 1.4 million of the displaced persons were children.
The UNICEF report also revealed that nearly 1.2 million of the affected children were under the age of 5.
Besides, the UNICEF report claimed that more than 265,000 children were similarly affected by the insurgents’ activities in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
This upsetting scenario, perhaps, propelled the Kano State Government to establish a special boarding school to cater for the educational needs of some of the affected children. The school, located within Kano city, is currently home more than 100 children from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states who were displaced by the insurgency.
The affected children are receiving education and psychological therapy, courtesy of the Kano State Government. “The special intervention programme is aimed at taking up full responsibility of 100 children, who are between the ages of 5 and 6 years. These are children whose parents are dead, displaced or missing as a result of the insurgency. `
`The state government will take care of the children’s education, training, upbringing, feeding, clothing, security, health care and accommodation,’’ former Gov. Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State said, while inaugurating the school.
He pledged that the government would look after the children until they completed their basic education, while the security situation in the states affected by the insurgency had improved considerably to facilitate their safe return to the states.
He recalled that NEMA and some concerned individuals brought the plight of the children, who have been deprived of parental care and concern due to the security challenges facing the area, to his attention.
Kwankwaso, now a senator, urged the federal and state governments as well as other well-meaning individuals and groups to come to the aid of the orphans in order to make their lives more meaningful.
Meanwhile, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has pledged that the Federal Government would cater for the needs of the displaced children.
Osinbajo, who spoke during a familiarisation visit to the school in Kano, told the displaced children not to be despondent, stressing that the government would continue to look after their wellbeing.
He pledged the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE), which was initiated to take care of all those who were affected by the insurgency.
He cited an interaction which the President had with the PINE Committee, chaired by retired Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, in Abuja, saying that apart from educating the children, government was interested in rebuilding places ravaged by terrorists. He said that PINE was a big project with immediate, medium and long term plans.
“Part of the plans is the education of children who are displaced. Other aspects involve the resettlement of the displaced persons, the rebuilding of homes and bridges and the de-mining of farms,’’ he said.
Osinbajo noted that the insurgents had planted mines in several farms in the North East, adding that a major plan of the Federal Government entailed the removal of all the impediments in the land.
He said that government was carrying out comprehensive de-mining of the affected areas so as to enable the displaced persons to return to their communities to resume their businesses and economic activities, including farming, without any hitches. He described the school, established by the Kano State Government, as a creative and humanitarian project, given the circumstances behind the children’s displacement.
He noted that the Kano State Government had demonstrated to others how to show concern for the future of the children. `
`In spite of everything that has happened to them, it is obvious that the children’s future is bright,’’ he said. The vice-president, nonetheless, underscored the need to create more opportunities for the children, while thanking the proprietors of the school for giving the hapless children hope.
Osinbajo stressed that the Federal Government would collaborate with the state governments to cater for displaced persons. The vice-president, who interacted with the children and posed with them in a group photograph, assured them that their present condition would not affect their future. He prayed that the children would grow up to become leading citizens of the nation.
In his remarks, the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, recalled that the school was opened on April 20, 2015, as part of the state government’s efforts to provide succour for children ravaged by insurgency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. He said that the school project, which started as an orphanage, had grown into a multipurpose centre which offered education and care to the pupils.
Abubakar said that the school had Primary One and Primary Two pupils running full curriculum in primary education with full boarding facilities. A pupil of the school, Master Musa Seidu, thanked the vice-president for the visit and the Kano State Government for taking good care of them in the school.
Nevertheless, as part of efforts to add value to the initiative, the Federal Government has established special mobile classrooms to cater for the educational needs of the children of IDPs in the northeast.
Inaugurating the mobile classroom programme at Dalori IDPs camp in Maiduguri, Osinbajo said that the scheme was part of the projects of PINE.
“These facilities would help school-age children in the IDPs camps to receive quality education before they could return to their respective homes in the liberated communities,’’ he said.
Os i n b a j o , who was represented by one of his aides, Dr Maryam Masha, said that the Boko Haram insurgency had taken a toll on the socio-economic life of the people.
He said that the Federal Government was obliged to fully support PINE’s efforts to provide special mobile classrooms for the children of the IDPs. The Chairman of PINE, Prof. Adesoji Adelaja, said that the containerised classrooms were pilot packages equipped with tables, chairs and instructional materials, as well as solar panels to provide electricity.
He said that each of the container- classrooms cost about N5 million, noting that PINE had long-term plans for education, youth development, agriculture, health, water resources and safety in the North East sub-region. “This is just a pilot programme and a temporary measure to address the challenge of insurgency as it affects the education of many schoolage children who were forced to flee their communities as a result of Boko Haram attacks,” he said.
Adelaja noted that the mobile classrooms could be moved to other locations whenever the IDPs finally returned to their communities, urging donor agencies, well-meaning Nigerians and corporate organisations to facilitate the fulfilment of the project by donating more mobile classrooms.
“The special classrooms will also be replicated in Yobe and Adamawa states which are equally affected by insurgency in the sub-region,’’ he added.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative, Mr Frank Ndaieh, said that the education of the displaced children was important to the Fund.
He said that education was the strongest weapon to fight poverty and underdevelopment, adding that education was also essential in efforts to promote economic growth, peace and stability.
Ndaieh, however, underscored the need for the government to ensure that children had unfettered access to schooling as well as high-quality and functional education.
In his remarks, Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno State thanked the Federal Government, PINE, NEMA, UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies for their assistance to the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-eastern part of the country.
Observers are, however, hopeful that the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East will soon come to a halt, while lasting peace returns to the country. (NANFeatures)
– Sani Adamu