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For Nigeria’s Schools, Safety Must Come First

The recent mass kidnapping of more than 280 students in northern Nigeria underscores the need to strengthen school safety measures. The international community must help find the missing pupils and support efforts to make schools more secure, which is the only way to realize the promise of a high-quality education for all.

EDINBURGH – Last Thursday, more than 280 Nigerian students were kidnapped from their school in Kuriga, a town in the northern state of Kaduna – the second mass abduction of young Nigerians in the span of a week. The international community must urgently act to secure the release of these children, some of whom are as young as eight years old. But equally important is creating safer schools for students throughout Nigeria’s 36 states, so that all children can pursue an education without fear of abduction or violence.

The kidnapping in Kuriga was even larger than Boko Haram’s infamous raid on a girls’ secondary school in Chibok, a town in northeastern Borno State, in 2014. The Islamic militants kidnapped 276 girls; a decade later, nearly 100 of them are still missing. Armed groups have targeted many schools in the intervening years, although not on the scale seen in the Kuriga attack, which took place only days after militants seized dozens of displaced people, reportedly including many young women and girls, in the Borno town of Gamboru Ngala.

The international community can and must help. First and foremost, the Nigerian government needs surveillance support to locate the abducted pupils. As the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, I am in contact with governments and urging them to help determine the students’ whereabouts, with a view to their quick release.