The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to protect school children across the country who are currently being targeted by ransom-collecting terrorists.
UNICEF issued the charge at the weekend in a reaction to the abduction and subsequent release of some pupils of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger State.
In a statement on Saturday, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said it was unfortunate that the pupils were attacked in an environment where they should feel safe.
Condoling with the family of Hayatu Hashimu, the six-year-old who died in captivity, Hawkins noted that education was the fundamental right of every child, stressing that “any attack on an educational institution is a violation of that right”.
His words: “Children who went in search of knowledge were abducted at their school – which is supposed to be a safe place for them – while exercising their fundamental right to an education. They spent 88 days in the hands of their abductors before being freed yesterday. It is a tragedy and utterly unacceptable that one of these children died in captivity.
“We rejoice with the families whose children have been freed – and express our deepest condolences to little Hayatu’s family, who have just suffered the worst loss on top of the tragedy they have gone through for the last 88 days.
“No family should lose a child just because it took the right decision to send that child to school. Schools should not be a target. Children should not be a target. Education is a fundamental right of every child and any attack on an educational institution is a violation of that right.
“We reiterate our call to authorities take all necessary measures to ensure schools are safe for all children. UNICEF will work with partners to provide mental health, psychosocial support and counselling services to both the freed learners and their parents”.