Nigerian School Children: Insecurity And Human Rights (Part 1) By Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR

Nigerian School Children: Insecurity And Human Rights (Part 1) By Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR

Introduction

Let us today educate members of the public on the plight of Nigerian school children and their rights under the law. Tomorrow belongs to today’s children.

But, our rulers have since stolen their yesterday and today. They are now insisted on stealing their tomorrow, a step that must be legally and democratically resisted by all Nigerians.

What are human rights?
Human Rights are those rights that are available to all human beings as a result of their status as humans. These rights are protected by both their countries and international laws and are viewed as sacred rights of all people. For quite some time, Nigeria appears to be under siege of Banditry and Balkanization. These dreaded armed bandits severally kidnap, maim, and kill their victims.

Many a time, most of their targets are the defenceless pupils and students of Secondary Schools, especially in the North.

The Eastern part of Nigeria is also seriously facing the threat of Balkanization orchestrated by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

There have been several unfortunate incidents of kidnapping in Nigeria. Sometimes this year, over 300 school girls were abducted by some dreaded group from a secondary school in the North- Eastern part of Nigeria. They spent weeks in captivity before they regained their freedom.

This was followed by several other kidnapping cases incident in Kaduna, Niger, Katsina and many parts of Northern Nigeria, where the problem of insurgency has been lingering.

Boko Haram and Islamic State for West African Province (ISAWP), are known for targeting school children and using them as leverage to negotiate with the Nigerian government for the release of their member prisoners.

In 2014, the Boko Haram insurgent group attacked Chibok, a community in the northern state of Borno, abducting more than 250 school girls.

The Chibok incident sparked global outrage and condemnation, though previous attacks had occurred with little or no international attention.

Earlier the same year, over 50 school boys from Buni Yadi, a town in Yobe State, were killed by suspected Boko Haram militants. Sometime in September, there was an online report of some men chasing students from Examination centres in Imo State. Education is a human right, which should be made available to all citizens of a country.

The rights for children to learn and gain knowledge in a school setting cannot be over emphasised, as it is through education that minds are broadened and the protection and development of a society are ensured for growth and progress. Every child has a right to go to school and learn and experience all the norms and values that can only be fully experienced as students.

Hence, to show the importance and significance of education, the right to education has been embedded and preserved in both national and international instruments and treaties. This right is however being abused in Nigeria today as more and more children are denied access to education.

Laws that ensure education as human right. Under Nigerian laws, Section 18 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria enshrines the necessity of education.

It provides that: “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. (2) Government shall promote science and technology. (3) Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end, Government shall as and when practicable provide (a) Free, compulsory and universal primary education; (b) Free secondary education; (c) Free university education; and (d) Free adult literacy programme.

A further look at Section (2)(a) of the fourth schedule to the Constitution provides that: Section 2(a) – The functions of a local government council shall include participation of such council in the Government of a State as respects the following matters – a. The provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education. In the case of OKOJIE VS LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT (1981) 2 NCLR, the court held that education is a constitutional right that belongs to everyone.

International laws on the right to education
1) The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, (UDHR) adopted in 1948. Article 26 of the UDHR provides that:

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

1. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

2. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. 2) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) 1966. Articles 13 and 14 of the Protocol provides that all state members undertake to provide education at all levels.

Article 13 of the CESCR provides that:

1.The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, with a view to achieving the full realization of this right:

(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;

(b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;

(d) Fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education;

(e) The development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system shall be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.

2.The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

1. No part of this article shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph I of this article and to the requirement that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.

Now this Article 14 of the CESCR provides that: Each State Party to the present Covenant which at the time of becoming a Party, has not been able to secure in its metropolitan territory or other territories under its jurisdiction compulsory primary education, free of charge, undertakes, within two years, to work out and adopt a detailed plan of action for the progressive implementation, within a reasonable number of years, to be fixed in the plan, of the principle of compulsory education free of charge for all.

3) Convention on the rights of the child The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) applies for children under 18. It recognises education as a lega…

(CRC) of 1989

Article 28 of the CRC provides that:

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity, they shall, in particular: (a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all; (b) Encourage the development of different forms of secondary education, including general and vocational education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need; (c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means; (d) Make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children; (e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.

1. States Parties shall promote and encourage international cooperation in matters relating to education, in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries. (To be continued).

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