‘Children shouldn’t be targets’ — UNICEF asks Nigeria to keep schools safe

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The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has called on Nigerian authorities to ensure the safety of schools across the country.

The international body was reacting to the abduction and subsequent release of some pupils of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger state.Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, in a statement on Saturday, said it is unfortunate that the pupils were attacked in an environment where they should feel safe.While condoling with the family of Hayatu Hashimu, the six-year-old who died in captivity, he noted that education is the fundamental right of every child, and “any attack on an educational institution is a violation of that right”.

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“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,” Hawkins said.“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.”He added that UNICEF will “work with partners to provide mental health, psychosocial support and counselling services to both the freed learners and their parents”.

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