From Sule Aliyu Bauchi
UNICEF Nigeria has expressed deep concern about the fate of the 150 abducted children of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.
As some of the students are as young as three years, the Fund called for their immediate and unconditional release.
According to a statement issued by UNICEF, copies of which were made available to journalists in Bauchi recently, it stated that: “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, the children must be released immediately.”
It further stated that: “We are appalled that two weeks after 150 students were abducted from their school, they continue to be held by their abductors,” said Rushnan Murtaza, Officer in Charge, Representative UNICEF Nigeria.
UNICEF added that: “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.
“It is horrifying that schools and schoolchildren continue to be targets of the attack – and in this particular incident, even children as young as three 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 added.
UNICEF also 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,” it further stated.
The organisation called on the Federal 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 would not be fearful of going to school, and parents afraid of sending their children to school.
“Schools must be safe places to study and develop, and learning should not be a risky endeavour,” said Murtaza.
“There are very few – if any – things more important for any society than ensuring the safe education of its children,” the Fund stated.
“UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children across more than 190 countries and territories. We work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone,” it concluded.