On African Child Day, UN education envoy urges focus on kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

Young girls attend a maths class at a school in Niger's Diffa region, where more than half of the students are Nigerians who have been displaced by fighting. Photo: UNHCR/K. Mahoney

16 June 2014 – Marking the Day of the African Child, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown today called for the world to remember the kidnapped schoolgirls of Chibok, Nigeria, while also praising young people around the world as they mobilise to demand education for all.

“Thousands of people have come together united with one cause: safe schools for every girl and boy,” Mr. Brown said in his message for the Day, which this year focuses on the theme, ‘A child friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa.’

“While the global community has failed to deliver safe schooling, young people are demanding safe, quality schools for all children everywhere,” he added, “and stand in solidarity with the northern Nigerian girls of Chibok and all those around the world who face these struggles.”

Boko Haram militants abducted more than 200 girls from their school in Chibok in Borno state on 14 April.

The UN has repeatedly called for concerted efforts to tackle the insurgency in the north-east of Nigeria, and reiterated its support for ongoing efforts by the Nigerian Government to secure the schoolgirls’ safe release.

In Toro, a small north-eastern Nigerian town, Kasimu Liman Toro, who shares the same last name as the name of his town, beamed with pride as his 12-year-old daughter, Nailatu, talks about her dream of one day becoming a doctor.

“I will support her in this with all my heart, until the day I die,” Mr. Toro told the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Mr. Toro did not learn to write until he attended adult literacy classes, but he insists that all his 15 children – including the 11 girls – get a good education.

A former messenger at a government office, Mr. Toro runs a traditional Koranic school in a mud and wattle hut close to his home.

“Even the girls of the neighbours, I make sure they go to school,” he added, with a smile.

As a “malam” – as Koranic teachers are known in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria – he has a strong influence with other parents. Mr. Toro stresses that all his students of school age attend government school, as well, to learn numeracy and literacy, in addition to memorizing the Koran.

In Nigeria, more than 10.5 million children are out of school, according to the most recent data, most of them in the north of the country, and many of them girls.

The Day of the African Child is marked on 16 June each year to honour the memory of school children killed in 1976 during a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa. They were protesting inferior education by the apartheid administration and demanding lessons in their own language.

The African Union (AU) designated the Day in 1991, encouraging events to be organised around the world promoting children’s rights. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the AU is headquartered, an assembly of young people is today “taking over” the organization to deliver a call of action about education to world leaders.

In addition, there will be a youth takeover of the Rio de Janeiro City Hall in Brazil, attended by Mayor Eduardo Paes and several members of his government, and a youth takeover of the Capitol Building in Liberia.


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