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By Danjuma Williams (Gombe State Correspondent)

Tension occasioned by bandits attacks on no less than 20 schools in Nigeria this year is scaring away no fewer than one million children from resuming schools in most parts of the country where schools are expected to be open for academic activities after the long holiday break.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), In all of these attacks, 16 children died, 1,436 abducted while 200 others are still missing.

Mr. Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria said, "the excitement of children returning to school at resumption is being stalled for these Nigerian children as insecurity threatens their safety and education".

He said, "it is unacceptable that communities should be worried to send their children over fears they will will be abducted from what should be a safe space".

He also decried a situation where children are afraid of returning to their friends and classrooms adding, "the security must end so that children can return to their normal lives and benefit from all the important things being in school brings to them".

Mr. Hawkins said, " the first day of school is a landmark moment in a child's life, setting them off on a life changing path of personal learning and growth".

He regretted however that "for so many Nigerian children whose education already suffered during covid-19 lockdown, that important day has been indefinitely postponed and for many children still missing, it is unclear when they will ever come back home or enter classroom again".

Mr. Hawkins' statement stated further that, "For the most vulnerable children, including children affected by conflict, girl children and children with disabilities, their risk of never stepping into a classroom in their lifetime is skyrocketing. We need to end this insecurity and make our priorities clear, that Nigerian children can and must be allowed to benefit from an education in a safe space.”

The statement reads thus; While countries worldwide, including Nigeria, are taking some actions to provide remote learning, many students are not being reached. In addition to lack of assets for remote learning, the youngest children may not be able to participate due to a lack of support using the technology, a poor learning environment, pressure to do household chores, or being forced to work.

Studies have shown that positive school experiences are a predictor of children’s future social, emotional and educational outcomes. Children who fall behind in learning during the early years often stay behind for the remaining time they spend in school, and the gap widens over the years. The number of years of education a child receives also directly affects their future earnings.

"Every hour a child spends in the classroom is precious, an opportunity to expand their horizons, maximize their potential and build their country’s future. With each passing moment, countless amounts of opportunity are lost,” said Peter Hawkins. “We must put our children’s future first. We can and must tackle the insecurity, stop attacks on education, and keep schools open. The clock is ticking for our young students.

Unless mitigation measures are implemented, the World Bank estimates a loss of $10 trillion in earnings over time for this entire generation of students globally. Existing evidence shows the cost of addressing learning gaps are lower and more effective when they are tackled earlier, and that investments in education support economic recovery, growth and prosperity.

UNICEF is urging governments to reopen schools for in-person learning as soon as possible, and to provide a comprehensive recovery response for students. Together with the World Bank and UNESCO, UNICEF is calling for governments to focus on three key priorities for recovery in schools. NNL.