THE ABDUCTED & RESCUED SCHOOL CHILDREN AND SAFETY IN THE BOARDING SCHOOLS: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The newspapers in the past week reported that over 10 armed kidnappers, on Monday, February 29, 2016, at about 8.00PM, invaded Monday night stormed Babington Macualay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, Lagos, and kidnapped three female Senior Secondary School students. It was also reported that that was the second attempt on the school, gunmen having attacked the school on January 22, 2016 but were intercepted by the internal security of the school.

The Nigeria Tribune of March 5, 2016 also revealed, ‘only weeks ago, it was reported that gunmen had attempted to attack another boarding school in Ikorodu, Government Model College, Owutu Ikorodu, not far from Agric Bus Stop.’

At the risk of drawing controversy, permit me to submit that I am not surprised at the ugly incident and other one foiled. If I am surprised at all, I am only surprised at the reaction of primary and secondary caregivers. I am surprised at our noise, which possesses all the ingredients of nothing but effervescence and impotent heat of passion. Today’s popular noise, in reaction to the unfortunate but preventable kidnap is laden with nothing but emotional outburst, as it is not calling for the careful public review or probe of the circumstances leading to the kidnapping of the precious children, with a view to using same as a veritable template for preventing same in the future both for same school and others within the state.

The best demand of the noise today is an effort to find the precious children, who were kidnapped. As far as I am concerned, the least of our concern should be finding the children physically. While efforts must be made in this area and I am glad that the precious children have been rescued, we must be concerned more about that part of the kidnapped children that may be lost forever to that sad experience. We must be concerned about the very high risk of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and great emotional imbalance. We must therefore be concerned about credible efforts at psychosocial support for the kidnapped precious children and their other school mates, who witnessed the ugly incident, which no child should be allowed to witness, even in his/her dream or nightmare.

In 2013, we released our Audio Program, titled, ‘So, You Want to Send Your Child to a Boarding School? Ask these 11 Fundamental Child Protection-focused Questions,’ where quoted the words of Benjamin Franklin: ‘distrust and caution are the parents of security.’

In this Audio Program, we share as the 7th question: ‘still as part of Child Protection measures, what are the safety measures put in place by the school?’ We submitted in the Audio Program as follows, ‘safety is a major issue within and outside the school system. What measures have the school put in place to ensure the safety of the children?’

Our Audio Program, in addressing the solutions to recent cases of insecurity within the boarding school system in Nigeria, we proposed as one of the new areas, the boarding schools must begin to look at as follows, ‘in countries like America with the rapidity of gun violence within the schools in the country, there lockdown drill, aimed at preparing the students and teachers on how to respond to gun violence within the school system. It may not be a bad idea for our schools to begin to think in this direction considering the recent and exacerbated Boko Haram attacks on boarding schools in the Northern parts of Nigeria.’

Both at the private and public sector, what PROFESSIONAL and current efforts have been made to update the security measures within our school system, both day and boarding, considering the volatility and fluidity of the state of security in our nation and schools  today, is the major question, we must ask? What is the recent state policy on security and safety within our school system in Lagos State and Nigeria?

The truth of the matter is that as African, we lack the foresight to be proactive in addressing many issues, particularly as they concern our children, their development, safety and security, both as primary caregivers, who provide preliminary and leading care and secondary caregivers, who provide institutional and other kinds of care, particularly as institutions of learning. It is our culture to neglect the signs of the time, to HOPE for the best, where COMMON SENSE demands that we carefully ASSESS a situation and ACT FAST; to PRAY for DIVINE INTERVENTION where SPIRITUAL CONSCIOUSNESS demands that we WATCH and engage the limiteless INGENUITY of our God-given minds; to prefer the uncertainty of CURE to the predictability of PREVENTION.

As longs as we continue this way, I want to assure you that our children are not safe at home and in institutions of learning. The question is not always if school are safe. The question, which I formulated many years ago is always, what measures have we PROFESSIONALLY put in place as primary and secondary caregivers to protect our precious children. This simple but loaded question opens us up to the world of informed preventive measures to the protection of our precious children. It is important to note that our precious children are kidnapped in schools as they are kidnapped in our homes.

Where do we go from here?
Leading a Private-Sector Preventive Response:
In responding to the situation our, organisation, Taiwo AKINLAMI Academy, as a follow-up to our Audio Program, released in 2013 and earlier mentioned above, created in 2015, a well-researched program, christened, ‘So You Want to Run A Safe Boarding School? Keys to Developing Effective Policy on the Protocols of Child Protection/Safe Practices.’  It is part of our efforts to lead a private sector response to addressing security and safety issues within the boarding school system from based on policy, protocols and professionalism. The maiden edition of the two-day program will hold in Lagos State on March 30 and 31, 2016 and it is open to both primary and secondary caregivers.

Private-Public Sector Collaborative Response:
It is my view that the kidnap of the precious children on the second attempt, the foiled attempt on other schools in the area and general insecurity within the school system has thrown up security and safety issues that we cannot continue to deny, even when we celebrate the rescue of the precious children. All stakeholders in the life of our precious children in Lagos State, (namely, parents, school, religious, and community leaders, government (line ministries, under the leadership of the Ministry of Education) and local and international organisations within and outside the school system, security agencies and most importantly children) must come together in an urgent 2-day Lagos State Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Safety and Security of Children in Lagos Private and Public Schools.

The goal of the Stakeholders Dialogue will be to review the state of security and safety of our precious children within the private and the public school system from the perspectives of all stakeholders and proposed genuine and practical ways forward. The Stakeholders’ Dialogue will also set up a committee of professionals and child safety/protection and security practitioners with a clear mandate to develop a universal Child Safety/Protection and Security Policy, which recommend minimum PREVENTIVE security and safety requirements every institution of learning in Lagos State must adhered to within a specified but reasonable frame of time or face stiff sanction. The policy will also state the support roles of regulatory bodies in helping both the private and the public sector schools to apply themselves to the minimum PREVENTIVE security and safety measures. It is my unrepentant ideology that the key to building an enduring Childhood PROTECTION and PRESERVATION Culture™ is summed up thus: ‘Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement™.’

Our Role:
I think our role as stakeholders is to join the campaign for an immediate Lagos State Stakeholders’ Dialogue on Safety and Security of Children in Lagos Private and Public Schools.  We hope in the course of the week to provide further direction on our roles as people, who are interested in the safety and security of our children in Lagos State in particularly and Nigeria as a whole. We however charge you to begin to look at how you can lead the campaign in your areas of influence.

Permit me to wrap up this call with the words of Dr. Elaine King of UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office, which are not only instructive but sums up today’s call to reason: ‘Since children spend a significant amount of their childhood at school, it is for thisreason, even if no other, that schools should be WARM, CARING, NURTURING places where students feel SUPPORTED and PROTECTED. INDEED, RESEARCH HAS SHOWN US THAT WHEN CHILDREN FEEL CONNECTED TO SCHOOL THEY HAVE BETTER BEHAVIOURAL AND LEARNING OUTCOMES.’
Do have an INSPIRED week.
I am Taiwo AKINLAMI and I am Sober on my KNEES on this LORD’S Day
(C) 2016 by Taiwo AKINLAMI..All Rights Reserved
T: 2348033620843, 08056979605 W: http://www.taiwoakinlami.com B: http://www.taiwoakinlami.WordPress.com T: @taiwoakinlami E: Principal@taiwoakinlami.com

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