By Evelyn Osagie
At least 20,000 children will benefit from classroom and toilet construction/renovation funded by the European Union (EU) in Borno State.
Implemented by UNICEF, through state and local partners, 116 new classrooms and 53 latrines have been handed to the Borno State Universal Basic Education Board, according to a report.
The facilities will support girls’ education, reduce classroom congestion, and improve access and retention of conflict-affected children in school.
Children in Borno are among the most conflict-affected and educationally disadvantaged in the world. Since 2009, over 1,400 schools have been destroyed and 2,295 teachers killed across the Northeast in protracted conflict. Attacks by armed groups on education and school facilities, the influx of internally displaced families into metropolitan cities and population growth have also stretched existing school structures to the limit, creating challenges of access, retention, and school completion.
The Head of Health, Nutrition, Resilience and Human Development at the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Montse Pantaleoni, hailed the initiative and said the EU and its member states are committed to supporting the government of Nigeria in the area of education, including the strengthening of Education Management Information System for longer term benefits in the sector.
“Education is a fundamental human right and investing in people is the most important investment any government could make for its citizens. Getting a number of out-of-school children back to school, and especially keeping the girls longer in school will contribute to better parenthood and reduce the effects of poverty that fuels protracted insurgency,’’ said Pantaleoni.
Spread across Gwoza, Hawul, Mobbar, Monguno, Jere and Maiduguri Metropolitan Council local government areas, the new classrooms and latrines will provide relief to children in some of the most hard-to-reach areas in the state.
“Children in the Northeast face unique challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated existing challenges in access to and quality of education, even further. While many barriers remain, we can be pleased to see progress is being made,” said Rushnan Murtaza, Deputy Representative UNICEF in Nigeria.
“For conflict-affected children and their families, education is a lifeline out of generational poverty. We are grateful for the funding from the EU to ensure the rights of the children in the Northeast to access quality education,’’ said Rushnan Murtaza.
The projects are components of a three-year 10 million euro EU Support to Early Recovery and Resilience package to UNICEF to support children, youths, and communities in Borno.
Other components include the provision of vocational skill acquisition and non-formal education to at least 25,000 youths.