With Ford Foundation support the dRPC Convenes pre-conference panel on Safe Schools and Girls’ Education in West Africa at African Union, African Girls Summit, 13th November 2021

Date: 13th November 2021 

Venue: Mahatma Ghandi International Conference Center, Niamey, Niger Republic 

About 40 girls and 12 Teachers and parents including the Head of Association of Imams which comprises of 9 West African nations attended the session. 

The session commenced with discussion on the safety of girls in schools. Madame Zeinabou Lawal Ma’adji of ONG Lumiere des Femmes et des Filles (LFF), a Maradi based NGO, interacted with the girls from some selected Secondary schools in Niger Republic about whether they feel safe in school and whether their parents would consider removing them from school due to the increasing attacks against schools. 

Most of the girls answered that they feel safe at school, but answered that they might be married off before finishing school due to factors such as poverty due to which they cannot afford learning materials like textbooks, Mathematical set and calculator, lack of teachers and, distance from their homes to schools and other forms of GBV.

After the session with the Girls, the panel discussion on the Safe Girls, Safe Schools – Implications of School Attacks for Girls’ Education in West Africa commenced with Alhaji Umar Sani Jabbi (Sarkin Yakin Gagi and the District Head of Gagi in Sokoto), Ms. Abiola Sanusi (Senior Policy and Strategy Adviser at Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack), Ambassador Shehu Ahmed (Chair Northeast Civil Society Network) and Madam Zeinabou Lawal Ma’adji of ONG Lumiere des Femmes et des Filles (LFF) as panelists. The moderator of the session started by informing the audience that the session is supported by Ford Foundation West Africa Office and organized by development Research and Projects Centre, (dRPC) Nigeria. He went on to introduce the dRPC-FF and its work around Safe School Initiative and the Community based Nursery School Program which aims at ensuring easy and safe access to school for early grade learners. The panel discussed the frequency of attacks against schools in West Africa, short and long term impact of attacks against schools and learning centers across the region and beyond and the Safe School Declaration initiative. 

The panelist/audience made the following recommendations: 

  1. In accordance with UN Resolution 2601 protecting the right to education in situations of armed conflict, recognizes States that endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) which provides practical framework to facilitate access, continuity of education and protection of schools, learners, teachers and education personnel including deterrence of military use of schools
  2. That the mechanism be put in place to assist and accompany survivors and victims of attacks on education
  3. Strengthen collaboration, engagement  and information-sharing between member states, traditional/religious leaders  and CSOs on the protection of education
  4. That the political leaders need to engage traditional and religious leaders in conflict resolution and how to detect plans to attacks school instead of using military force all the time.
  5. The Head of the association of Imams called for more cooperation between CSOs and Religious/ Traditional leaders in order to detect and counter misinterpretation of religious texts by extremist groups 
  6. That there is need to build secondary schools close to communities or with primary school in order to enhance retention and reduce the difficulty of travelling to other towns to attend secondary school for girls
  7. That the incidence of attacks against schools should be reported to the school authorities and traditional leaders of such communities
  8. That there should  intelligence sharing  and synergy between African nations facing attacks on education and those who do not in order preempt and ensure vigilance
  9. That whistle blowing for all forms of gender based violence should be enhanced.
  10. That priority survey vis a vis girl education be done before  implementing projects
  11. That follow the money policy should be applied by civil society organizations to ensure transparency and accountability on funds for projects

The girls invited from schools across Niger Republic also listed and read out some of the things government should do in order to ensure their access to education in safe environment. They urged the African leaders to adopt and implement the Safe School Declaration, provide feeding and secure transport system particularly for girls and train school teachers to be approachable, respectful and have integrity towards their female students.

The recommendations made by the panelists and the girls were reformulated by the panelists and submitted to the event report committee and each panel was called to present their recommendations before the audience at the plenary.