By Bukar Bolori
At least 20,000 children will benefit from classroom and toilet construction/renovation funded by the European Union in Borno State, North-East Nigeria.
The projects are components of a three-year European Union’s €10 million Support to Early Recovery and Resilience package of UNICEF which is to assist children,
youths, and communities in Borno State.
Other components in the package include the provision of vocational skill acquisition and non-formal education to at least 25,000 young people.
According to a statement by UNICEF on Friday, it will be doing the implementation of the projects would be implemented through state and local partners.
The statement said 116 newly constructed/renovated classrooms and 53 latrines have now been handed to the Borno State Universal Basic Education Board, noting that the facilities will support girls’ education, reduce classroom congestion, and improve access and retention of conflict-affected children in school.
According to the statement, children in Borno State 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 North-East 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,” UNICEF lamented.
The Head of Health, Nutrition, Resilience and Human Development at the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ms Montse Pantaleoni, according to the statement, 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.
She said: “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.”
The statement revealed that the projects would be spread across Gwoza, Hawul, Mobbar, Monguno, Jere and Maiduguri Metropolitan Council local government areas, noting that the newly constructed/renovated classrooms and latrines will provide immediate relief to children in some of the most hard-to-reach areas in the state.
The Deputy Representative, UNICEF in Nigeria, Rushnan Murtaza, was quoted in the statement to have said that: “Children in North-East Nigeria 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,” while adding that: “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 North-East Nigeria to access quality education.”