21 June 2021, New York -- We are deeply alarmed by reports of the abduction of 80 schoolchildren in the State of Kebbi in Nigeria on 17 June and call for their immediate release. This news comes only a few days after another tragic attack in which 150 students were abducted in north-central Nigeria. Such heinous violence has been increasing in the country, with around 1,000 girls and boys reportedly abducted by armed elements in recent months, according to the United Nations.
Every child -- especially girls -- deserves the right to go to a safe school free of fear of violence or kidnapping. Every school-aged child and adolescent, every girl, has an inalienable right to protection under international law. With the increase in school abductions in Nigeria, government efforts to reestablish a Safe Schools Initiative, which derives from international law, and take new measures for school safety must be accelerated. Every child should have the confidence that all parties -- local governments, national government, civil society and the international community -- are working together to make their safety and right to a quality and inclusive education a top priority.
Under international humanitarian law and human rights law, students, schools, and their personnel must be protected. Yet, the horrific reality is that impunity remains pervasive for the perpetrators of attacks against education and schoolchildren. It can no longer be allowed to stand.
Around the globe, a growing number of States have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration -- a total of 109 to date, including Nigeria. As Nigeria prepares to host the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools in October this year, it must lead the way on how to turn the Declaration's commitments into action to ensure that all students and educators can learn and teach in safety. The children of Nigeria, especially the girls, have suffered enough and deserve no less than physical and legal protection to learn in safety.
Justin van Fleet, President of the global children's charity Theirworld
Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait