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FG, World Bank, others partner on safeguarding schools



By Matthew Denis, Abuja

The Founder of Emergency Coordination Center (ECC), Dr. Ayoade Alakija has revealed that the data available shows that over 18.5 million Nigeria children are out of schools as a result of the incessant insecurity and poverty lavishing the country.

She made the disclosure during a High Level summit organised by UNICEF in partnership with ECC christened ‘Safeguarding Our School: Creating a Safe Teaching and Learning Environment’ held in Abuja.

Dr. Alakija Said “UNICEF data has estimated that 18.5 million children were out of school in Nigeria and 60 per cent  of whom are girls. This is worrisome.”

According to her, ECC is a Nigerian based organisation established to facilitate, coordinate and provide strategic advice and direction to various social development and humanitarian related activities involving high level National and international stakeholders.

She said, “In April 2021, 7years after the Boko Haram abduction of 276 schools from Chibok, Borno state Nigeria’s ECC facilitated the first high level Forum on Financing Safe School in Nigeria and creating safe learning communities. A whole society approach to addressing the education crisis in Nigeria was agreed by multistakeholder participants in the form of the ‘Abuja Compact’.

“There is some reason for hope that safe teaching and learning can be created and sustained across Nigeria so that children can safely go to school. The UN has set the Mandate to ensure all children are given basic education by 2030. Nigeria must do its part to ensure this goal can be met.

“As the host of the Safe Schools Declaration fourth international conference, Nigeria must start to lead the way in good practice to ensure students and educators can learn and teach in safety.”

World Bank Country Director for Nigeria,  Shubham Chaudhuri, warned that the inability of the government to guarantee safe learning environment for children is a drawback to the country’s human capital development.

The World Bank Country representative stressed that except the government adopts an all-inclusive approach to protecting the children, many would be denied their right to education.

He noted that the closure of schools in the FCT due to threats of abduction will further increase the number of out of school children.

In her speech, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, admitted that rising security challenges have led to closure of schools. She however assured of the government’s commitment to safety and security of schools across Nigeria.

The Minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Aliyu Ahmed, said in keeping with its responsibility to create a safer and more secure teaching, learning and living environment for her children has taken several steps in this direction.In a bid to turn the situation around, Mrs Ahmed said the federal government was currently in talks with States, local governments and other critical agencies of government in order to identify the most transparent, effective and accountable ways of mobilising and deploying resources.

The Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr. Fayemi Kayode Ekiti State Governor emphasized that they will continue to partner with relevant stakeholders to ensure safety of learning environment for children.

He applauded ECC for a vital role played as advocate and facilitated for safeguarding schools crossroads in the country noting that the Governors in collaboration with the Chairmen of local councils are already providing perimeter fences in all schools, teachers welfare and enumeration as priority as education is key to nation building.

Top dignitaries at the event were United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, British Ambassador to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Knut Eiliv Lein.

Others were Deputy Director General Multilateral Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs Norway, Mrs. Gunn Jorid, Mr. Peter Hawkins UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. A.B Okauru Director General Nigeria Governors Forum among others.


UNIBEN ASUU threatens to boycott April 28 resumption over violence on campus



By Elvis Omoregie, Benin

The University of Benin Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), on Monday said its members may not be available to resume academic activities on the 28th of April 2024, if immediate action and the necessary processes are not immediately initiated to nip in the bud incessant violence attack on lecturers and management staff by some errant students of the institution.

The ASUU leadership also noted that it is constrained to embark on teaching and research in an environment in which lecturers are prime targets for brutalisation or elimination by some UNIBEN students they are labouring to impact with the wealth of their intellectual property following attack on her members.

The ASUU position is coming on the heels of the attempted murder of Dr. Presley Osemwengie, a lecturer in the Department of Economics and member of the University of Benin Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), by some members of the Executive Committee of the University of Benin Students Union.

A statement signed by Ray Chikogu and Success Abusomwan, Chairman and Secretary respectively, UNIBEN Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and made available to Nigerian NewsDirect in Benin City noted that Dr. Presley Osemwengie was attacked, hit in the back of his head with a small axe and left for dead in the pool of his own blood by some of those in the company of the Students Union President.

The statement reads in part, “We are constrained to issue this statement on the basis of the spate of violence and general atmosphere of insecurity that has pervaded the Ugbowo campus of the University of Benin of late. This culminated in the attempted murder of Dr. Presley Osemwengie, a lecturer in the Department of Economics and member of the University of Benin Branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), by some members of the Executive Committee of the University of Benin Students Union led by their President and some ex- as well as non-students of the University on Friday the 12th of April, 2024.

“On that fateful day, the President of the Students Union of the University of Benin marched upon a gathering of staff of the University and their invited guests, ordering them to discontinue their interaction as he was not pre-informed and consequently, did not grant permission for the interaction to be held.

“In the resulting melee, Dr. Presley Osemwengie was attacked; hit in the back of his head with a small axe and left for dead in the pool of his own blood by some of those in the company of the Students Union President.

“It is necessary to note that this worrisome trend began with the assault by both students and nonstudents of the University on the person of the current Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin in September 2021 when she was humiliated and marched from her residence to the Main Gate of the University in very hostile circumstances.

“Other similar and very unsavoury incidents in which students of the University of Benin have threatened and brutalised lecturers of the University have also been reported at different times. This cannot continue.

“We wish to now state that it is impossible for our members to hereafter dispose of any teaching and research in an environment in which they are prime targets for brutalisation or elimination by some of the students they are labouring to impact with the wealth of their intellectual property. So it is incumbent on the Administration of the University of Benin to provide adequate security for staff of the University and create an atmosphere conducive for effective teaching and learning on our campuses.

“To the end that our members will feel safe to conduct their business of research, teaching, and supervision going forward from the 28th of April 2024 (being the date of resumption for the next academic session) therefore, and without prejudice to the work of the Committee set up by the University Administration to investigate the incident at stake, we state as follows as encapsulated in the resolutions of the meeting of the Congress of ASUU UNIBEN on Thursday the 18th of April, 2024.”

“Our Union condemns in very strong terms, the rebellious and terrorising acts of brigandage being carried out by our students both as individuals and under the cover of student unionism in their entirety,” Chikogu said.

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UNLOCK: FG to increase grant winners, support businesses with registration



As the ongoing UNLOCK Training Programme enters its final and crucial phase, participants on Monday got surprise boosters from the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Technical, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Education (SSAP-TVEE), Madam Abiola  Arogundade, as she announced a decision to increase the number of grant winners and a promise of assistance in business registration.

Earlier on Friday, the fourth day of the programme, participants were also thrilled by the news that trainees of Vocational and Skills Acquisition Centres are included in the Students Loan Bill recently signed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to enable them obtain loans for the duration of their programmes.

In her remarks during the question-and-answer session on Monday, the Day 5 of the training, Arogundade said her Office (OSSAP-TVEE) would assist participants, especially start-ups, to process the registration of their new companies after the training. She added, however, that the assistance would be for only those who do not win the grant while grant winners would be expected to process theirs with part of their grants.

And welcoming the participants to the second week of the programme  at the end of the day’s training session, the SSAP-TVEE, who  expressed delight at their continued enthusiasm, announced, “I want to encourage you to continue to come for every single class, to start with your Business Plans. We have decided to include more people than we decided in the beginning for the grant; and so I want to encourage you to give us a reason for giving you the grant.”

Highlights of Monday’s training session included the assumption of the training function by a new facilitator, Mr. John Eyok, who took over from Bukola Mayie and the visit of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Job Creation and MSMES, Hon. Tola Johnson, who exhorted the participants on the importance of the training they are currently undertaking.

On Friday last week, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Students Loans and Tertiary Education, Hon. Adegboyega Nasir Isiaka, who gave the news of the Students Loans Bill during a brief visit at the programme, explained that Section 2 of the Act clearly states that vocational trainees would henceforth be beneficiaries of the Students Loans.

According to the Committee Chairman, the Act provides that fees and maintenance cost of students of tertiary and skill acquisition centres would be entitled to some amounts of money for school fees and maintenance throughout the duration of their programmes.

“What that means is that if you are in any particular skills acquisition training institution that meets the requirements of the Board and Management of the Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND), you can benefit from the facility,” the Chairman said.

Explaining that the details of the Bill are being worked out in terms of how much each category of beneficiaries would be entitled to, the Chairman told the participants, “In broad terms, it means that you have to do more of these activities; because anyone that wants to acquire one skill or the other will now no longer be deterred by funding required to do that.”

No less than 105 participants physically attended the training on Friday and Monday, Days 4 and 5 of the programme, while the number of online participants continued to soar with over 5,000 actively participating from more than 18 states of the Federation. The training enters its final stages this week as  Mr. John Eyok takes over from Bukola Mayie.

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Unibadan students condemn 750% fee increase for fresh students



By Sodiq Adelakun

The proposed 750% fee hike for newly admitted students at the University of Ibadan has sparked outrage among the student body, prompting a swift response from the Student’s Union leadership.

In a joint statement issued by Samuel Tobiloba, President of the University Students Union, and Olaniyi Dolapo, General Secretary, a meeting with the university management has been requested to address the sudden fee adjustments.

The Student Union expressed shock upon learning of the fee increments when the university portal was opened.

The fees displayed on the portal reportedly range from N133,500 to N372,500, with additional utility and technology levies of N20,000 each expected from every student.

The statement issued by the Union underscores the concern and dissatisfaction felt by students regarding the arbitrary fee hike, highlighting the potential financial burden it imposes on newly admitted students.

According to the statement, “In a bid to clarify these, we reached out to the university management and it was confirmed that the opening of the portal was a demo process in preparation for the commencement of payment and registration processes and there was a plan for the increment of fees ranging from N133,500 to N238,500 aside the utility and technology levies (N80,000 in total).

“We note with concern that this increment represents about 450%-750% of the previous bundle fee which ranged from about N20,000 – N30,000.

“This is coming at a period when several students are finding it hard to cope with the current fees regime, and increased costs of living in the country.

“The union condemns this increment in strong terms, and requests that this proposed increment be reverted to the status quo.

“We are equally requesting a meeting with the university management towards resolving this issue,” the statement added.

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