By Bukar Bolori
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for the immediate and unconditional release of 150 students abducted two weeks ago from Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, north-central Nigeria
UNICEF, in a statement on Monday, said it was worried and deeply concerned about the fate of children, some as young as three years.
The statement read: “As Nigeria just marked two weeks since the abduction of 150 students from the Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, north-central Nigeria, UNICEF expressed deep concern about the fate of the children – some of whom are as young as 3 – and called for their immediate and unconditional release.”
The Officer in Charge, Representative UNICEF Nigeria, Rushnan Murtaza, was quoted in the statement to have said:
“We are appalled that two weeks after 150 students were abducted from their school, they continue to be held by their abductors.
“Parents are grieving their children’s ‘disappearance’; siblings are missing their brothers and sisters – these children must be immediately and unconditionally released and safely reunited with their families.”
Murtaza added that: “It is horrifying that schools and schoolchildren continue to be targets of attack – and in this particular incident, even children as young as 3 years old. We can only begin to imagine how frightened they are, and the impact this will have on their mental health and well-being.”
UNICEF stressed that attacks on students and schools are not only reprehensible but a gross violation of the right of children to an education. It is a right that any society can ill-afford to violate.
The organisation, meanwhile called on the Nigerian Government to take all measures to protect schools in the country, and implement the promises made in the Financing Safe Schools in Nigeria Conference in April this year, so that children will not be fearful of going to school, and parents afraid of sending their children to school.
Murtaza said: “Schools must be safe places to study and develop, and learning should not be a risky endeavour,” insisting that: “There are very few – if any – things more important for any society than ensuring the safe education of its children.”