Statement by UNICEF Nigeria Representative Peter Hawkins on the release of schoolboys in Katsina
It has been now almost one week exactly since the appalling attack on the Government Boys Science Secondary School in the Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State – an attack that shocked the country.
I am relieved to hear that about 344 children are reported to have been released last night and we look forward to their safe returns to their families. If any are still being held, we call on the attackers to release all children immediately. Any other children still being held captive in Nigeria should also be released.
For one week, parents were awake at night, crying and awaiting the return of their sons. My thoughts and solidarity are with these children, their families and the Kankara community – who have endured an unimaginable ordeal this past week.
Last Friday’s attack, directly targeting children in the middle of the night, in a place where they should feel safe, was an outrage. Schools should be safe. Children should never be the target of attack – and yet, far too often in Nigeria, they are precisely that – victims of attacks on their schools.
Attacks on educational facilities are a grave violation of children’s rights. This incident is a disturbing reminder of the heavy toll that violence takes on civilians in north-west Nigeria, including children.
Such attacks deprive children of the right to an education. They make children fearful of going to the classroom, and parents afraid to send their children to school. Schools must be safe places to study and develop, and learning cannot become a perilous endeavor.
Interventions must be put in place to ensure that schools are safe, and that all Nigerian children can learn without fear. These interventions should take into account the important role that communities can play in ensuring the safety of schools, including through support for school-based management committees (SBMCs).
No cause justifies attacks against children and schools. Such cruel disregard for humanity must come to an end.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Nigeria, visit www.unicef.org/nigeria