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Safe Schools: Towards securing lives enhancing education

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Compromised entrance to one of such schools

Not too long ago, some schools became soft targets for kidnappers, who took advantage of loose security formations to abduct pupils for ransom.
 
As the trend escalated between 2015 and 2017, school owners and government were forced to beef up security around schools. Some state governments waded into the matter by taking measures such as drafting military and police officers to vulnerable schools to curb the menace.

This appears to have helped, as there has been no report of kidnapping in secondary schools for sometime now. 
But has this made schools to relax and lower their guard?

The Guardian investigations revealed that it appears private schools have become more security conscious, as majority of them have upgraded their security formations.

Not only have these schools beefed up security personnel permanently manning their gates, they also have security cameras (CCTV) mounted at strategic places around their premises.

With public schools, however, it is another story entirely, as many of them still carry on as if safety is the least of their concerns. While some of them parade dilapidated or half-done fences and gates, others just couldn’t be bothered.

For instance, though Akodu Primary School in Akodu Street, Mushin, Lagos, is fenced, security wasn’t that tight, as some pupils were roaming round neighbouring streets during schools hours.

The Guardian observed that though the school has two gates— the main entrance and another one leading to an adjacent street, there was no one at the entrance to check pupils’ entry and exit. At around 1:30pm, when Primary 1 and 2 pupils closed for the day, the pupils were seen leaving the school compound unguarded, as they headed for their various homes without supervision.

Also, the second gate was old and rickety, just like some portions of the fence, which could provide an easy escape for unwanted visitors.

The head teacher told our correspondent that, as a civil servant, he wasn’t in a position to speak to the press. He, however, said the lives of pupils and teachers were safe, as the school is located in a residential area.

Eko Boys High School, Labinjo, Idi-Oro, which houses four different schools, also has two big gates on both sides. While one was permanently locked, the other serves for entry and exit had a diligent gateman, who ensured students didn’t leave school premises without permission from relevant authorities.

A teacher disclosed that the school has maintained its security standard for which it is known.

“One of our priorities is the security of lives and property of pupils and teachers while in school. The gateman has been instructed to ensure nobody goes outside the premises during school hours, except with the exit permit card. We also do roll calls twice daily to know if any of the students has disappeared from the school,” he said.

At Nigerian Model High School, Idi-Oro, the scenario was similar to what was observed at Eko Boys High School. The gate was handled by a gateman, who ensured pupils’ safety. He equally assisted the pupils while crossing the expressway.

There was some level of sanity at Ikeja High School, Oshodi. There was tight security in place, highlighted by the fact that the Staff room was close to the gate, which discouraged students from going out anyhow. And though no one was willing to talk, it was obvious authorities took the safety business seriously.

Few metres away was Owoseni Primary School, Oshodi, with about three different schools in the premises. But despite the presence of a fence and gate, security in the school was loose. Students were seen roaming around the gate and adjoining street during school hours.

On several occasions, The Guardian observed that the students were always fighting outside the school gate, and the teachers had a hard time curbing the students’ excesses.

Generally, a good number of these public schools were yet to put serious security apparatus in place. And while some schools’ gates were left ajar, enabling free entry and exit of pupils and visitors, pupils of schools without proper fences loitered around. Their teachers seemed nonchalant as they watched the students do whatever caught their fancy.

THE private schools The Guardian visited are doing all possible to protect the children in their care. And to this end, required equipment and manpower are being deployed. Indeed, nothing is spared in their efforts at guarding life and property.

At Vines-Star College, Bariga, Lagos, the Principal, Mr. Adesanya Samuel, explained that the management recently spent a large sum to strengthen security in the school.

He said: “When we resumed last term, we secured the services of two police officers to man our primary school and college gates to further strengthen security. We also sensitised our students on how to stay safe, just as we call parents whenever we don’t see their children in school. This is to ascertain they are at home and safe. In cases where a student doesn’t get home on time, we encourage parents to call the school to find out if there is any reason for staying back in school.

He listed other measures put in place to include installation of a CCTV last year. He, however, urged government not to relent in providing adequate security for children in and out of school.

“A child can also be kidnapped outside. Furthermore, we want better security in the state, because there are too many hooligans in the environment, making neighbourhoods unsafe. These idle people just loiter around. If this is not checked, they eventually become kidnappers.”

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Model College Epe, Lagos State, has in addition to security personnel comprising police officers, members of Man O’ War and sometimes soldiers, as well as CCTV that are mounted all over the school premises.

The school principal explained that security measures recently introduced include, networking with security agencies for support and guidance on security measures to put in place. The security personnel are permanently at the gate.

“Nobody is allowed into the school premises without thorough interrogation. And whenever the school is vacating, security personnel monitor and ensure that nobody drives out with children without permit and gate pass. There are other measures we do not want to reveal for security reasons,” she said.

At Anchorspringfield School, Itele, Ota, Ogun State, the school said it had reinforced its security structures, as well as introducing new ones.

The school Director, Mr. Samson Adamolekun, said the school has trained and equipped security personnel who are on ground 24 hours daily, with plans to get trained dogs to assist at night.

He said: “The school compound is fenced and gated with security lights to brighten the premises at night. We also have standby generator. We sometimes engage experts to educate our students on the security situation in the country to make them more security conscious.
 
“We educate our parents and guardians, as well as our drivers on security matters. They have been mandated to ensure pupils enter the premises and settle down in their classes. They should follow up with calls to confirm from teachers. The drivers should also ensure pupils enter their homes and are received by parents and guardians before they leave, when dropping them after school hours.”
 
Adamolekun warned parents and guardians not to put their trust in Keke Napep or Okada riders, especially when they are not their relations.

“They must not allow very young children to go to or return from school alone. This category of pupils should be accompanied by the eldest son or daughter. And when parents are not available, they must notify school authority.
 
“Our pupils and students have been taught not to follow strangers, either to school or home. Parents and guardians have been sensitised to always supply children’s needs, such as food, snacks and water from home, so that they don’t beg or get tempted with such on the road or street. The issue of security is everybody’s business and we should work together to make our society safe.”

At Light Of Joy School, situated in Ekoro area of Lagos State, the security strategy adopted three years ago was still maintained. The school gates are tightly locked, as soon as the pupils disperse from the Assembly ground.

The school principal, Mrs. Kolade said: “The safety of our students is essential to us than anything. Parents have entrusted their children’s safety into our hands, when they are in school. So, we must continue to give them assurance on maximum protection of their children.”
 
The Kids Campus Montessori School, Arigbajo, Ogun State has raised its fence, which was previously low. A stronger and more secure gate has also been mounted. In addition, the exit was usually locked to prevent anyone from sneaking in or out.
 
The Proprietress, Mrs. happiness Ibrahim, said the school has mandated parents to always sign in and out whenever they bring their wards.

She said: “We do not allow another person to pick any child home other than the person that signed, except with the parents’ consent.
 
“We also do not allow persons other than parents to pick children after school hours. Neighbours and family friends are also not allowed to pick other people’s children after school hours, except with parents’ approval.”
 
At Nawair-Ud-Deen Grammar School (Junior), Solu-Ifo, Ogun State, The Guardian observed that a fence has been constructed at the main end of the school premises to restrict movement into and out of the school.
   
A teacher, Mr. Babatunde Sanyaolu, disclosed that access into the school is granted only after due verification.

“There is a visitors’ register where they write their names, whom they want to see or the purpose of their visit,” he explained. “The school gate always remains closed during school hours. It is to be opened only for authorised entry and exit. The gatekeeper doubles as a security guard.
 
“The night guard have been mandated not to leave until the gatekeeper’s arrival in the early morning. The gatekeeper and the night watchmen are to ensure that classrooms and offices are properly locked. And whenever a problem occurs, they are to make a report to the authorities the next day.”
 
He added that students’ movements in the school premises are restricted, just as their activities are monitored to check acts of violence, bullying and vandalism, among others.
 
“Until recently, the school also had a security arrangement with the community’s vigilante group. Community members where the school is situated work hand-in-hand with the school’s security committee. They have been playing commendable roles in ensuring the school’s safety,” he said.

At the Nigeria Tulip International College (NTIC), formerly Nigeria Turkish International College, Isheri, Ogun State, where three students, three female supervisors, one female cook and a female Turkish teacher were kidnapped in 2017, The Guardian learnt that several strategies have been adopted to forestall any security breach within and outside the school. 
 
Though, physically, much could not be seen, as the fence and regular security personnel remain at their various posts, it was confirmed that the school is on top of their game. 
 
The Media Adviser to the school, Joshua Ocheja, told The Guardian on phone: “I can assure you that after the unfortunate incident, we undertook a security audit of our schools and the report of the security audit was implemented.
 
“ The management takes the issue of security with all seriousness and we are not likely to have a security breach anytime soon with what we have on ground.”

When pressed further to mention any of their strategies, he said: “Answering this questions might jeopardize whatever security arrangements we have in place. That would be too much in the public domain. Be assured that we do have a rock solid security arrangement in place in all our schools.”


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