By Palma Ileye
In continued efforts to ensure safety in the educational sector, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, has set up a Safe School Special Response Squad, SSSRS, to enable proper protection of schools across the country.
Commandant General, NSCDC, Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi, disclosed this yesterday during the opening ceremony of a Three-Day safe school administrators and managers’ training programme held at the Corps’ National Headquarters in Abuja.
Audi, represented by Deputy Commandant General, DCG, in charge of Operations, Danladi Mungadi said that the National Safe Schools Response Coordination Centre, NSSRCC, was one of the critical components of the implementation strategy saddled with the responsibility of coordinating Safety and security responses for schools and host communities in collaboration with all security agencies and other relevant stakeholders.
He stated that the National plan on Safe School was a product of series of consultative engagement with relevant stakeholders at National and sub–National levels of government in Nigeria, aimed at protecting school, learners, teachers, non–teaching staff and host communities from attacks adding that the SSSRS was the armed unit of the National Safe Schools Response Coordination Centre, NSSRCC.
He noted that the idea behind the Safe School plan was in recognition of the prevalence of cases of attacks and violence in Nigeria schools and its devastating impact on schools and host communities saying that, it was estimated that 75% (according to the UNDP) of children were in IDP Camps without access to learning.
“To further worsen the situation, parents are scared to send their children to schools thereby contributing to the high rate of out – of school children in the country.
“The National Safe School Plan being financed by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning rolled out strategies for implementation assigning the NSCDC the role of the lead agency. This decision was taken cognizant of the Lead Role of the Corps in the protection of Critical National Assets and Infrastructure inclusive of schools/educational institutions.”
“It is worthy of mention that the National Safe Schools Response Coordination Centre, NSSRCC, is one of the critical components of the implementation strategy saddled with the responsibility of coordinating Safety and security responses for schools and host communities in collaboration with all security agencies and other relevant stakeholders.
“The implementation strategy for the Safe School Plan emphasises capacity building and awareness creation of stakeholders at the first phase of the implementation. To this effect, the centre has developed series of Capacity Building/Training Courses to equip various categories of Stakeholders for the task ahead,” Audi said.
He recalled that the centre was flagged off at the Headquarters of the NSCDC on 13th February, 2023 by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed noting that the flag off signalled the commencement of implementation of the Safe School Program.
He explained that, “To underscore the importance attached to this program, I immediately inaugurated a Committee of Experts to develop a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP and implementation framework to guide the operation of the centre in line with global best practise.
“The Committee had since completed its assignment and had officially presented the draft SOP on the 7th of March 2023. The Draft SOP was further subjected to Validation by Relevant Stakeholders through a Validation Workshop held on 23rd March, 2023. I have further directed the Commander of the NSSRCC to ensure that the SOP is disseminated to all the stakeholders for proper utilization/implementation.”
The Corps’ helmsman added that, “the task ahead of the Corps as the lead agency was onerous stressing the fact that the NSSRCC was the Government Institution saddled with direct responsibility of protecting schools and host communities.
“The creation of Safe School Special Response Squad, SSSRS, which is the armed Unit of the National Safe Schools Response Coordination Centre. This is in compliance with the implementation strategy of the National Safe School Program. By virtue of this creation, the Rapid Response squad and the Female squad has been collapsed into the SSSRS.
“The responsibility of SSRS shall be to undertake regular Patrols and responds to distress calls as may be directed by the Commander of the NSSRCC. Other responsibilities of the special squad shall be as contained in the SOP.
“The fact that the mandate of protecting Critical National Assets and Infrastructure is the core mandate of the Corps notwithstanding the protection of Schools and host communities is the duty of all. To this effect, every Directorate is hereby directed to appoint a Safe School liaison officer for necessary interface with the centre. ”
Also, the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu who was ably represented by the Ministry’s Education Support Services, Director, Dr Lydia Gigginna said that it was imperative to understand the threats to schools and how to ensure proactive intelligence and security measures stressing that Education in Nigeria must be protected at all cost from all forms of attacks.
Adamu stated that the Federal Government was committed to prioritising the safety of schools which led to the safe school initiative and declaration.
He said that it was also important to ensure school infrastructure were secured by preventing vandalism of school property, avoid building collapse and arsons.
The Minister noted that it was significant for threats to be treated seriously by investigating incidents promptly and efficiently.
“Use support staff, take appropriate disciplinary and criminal enforcement steps, document the threats and actions taken, apply security measures,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Safe School, National Coordinator, Hajiya Halima Iliya, assured of the Federal Government’s determination and support in ensuring appropriate safety of schools.
Iliya while presenting a lecture on Achieving Safer Schools in Nigeria: National Plan on Financing Safe Schools 2023-2026, announced that N15b had been approved for safe schools project within the stipulated period.
She said there was need for all stakeholders to embrace and perform their individual roles for a collective actualisation of the plan.
Commander of the NSSRCC, Dr Tersoo Shapeera, said that the centre will continue to work efficiently in responding to school emergencies.
Shapeera stated that the insecurity of schools in certain parts of the country has impacted on students, teachers, parents and communities; psychologically, socially and physically.
He said, “This situations could deter the future of Nigerian children, so, there is a compelling need for all stakeholders to react due to the rate of drop-outs, insecurity has produced.
“We hope to get more personnel, staff at the center as we plan to run 24/hrs in collaboration with all stakeholders. We are looking for partnership and support from individuals, private sector, government, international communities and civil societies.
“We are also in need of technical resources, financial support, equipment among other needs.”
The Commander of the Center noted that plans were underway to establish more NSSRCC across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory with its headquarters situated at the NSCDC headquarters.