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Why security around schools is imperative

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Deputy Editor
26 June 2022   |   2:40 am
According to experts, a safe and secure environment is a sine qua non for students of all ages since it helps learners to develop confidence and focus on their most important assignment

School kids

According to experts, a safe and secure environment is a sine qua non for students of all ages since it helps learners to develop confidence and focus on their most important assignment – studies. 

  
This pre-supposes that in a violent or threat-prone environment, learners’ attention to their studies would, at best, be scant.

While some schools, especially standard private schools place a lot of premium on the provision of safe learning environments, most public schools, as well as “mushroom” private schools leave so much to chance.
  
The spate at which schools across the country are exposed to diverse man-made and natural disasters, especially kidnapping, sexual harassment, substance abuse, and sundry violence lends credence to the fact that a lot needs to be done to keep learners safe, and insulate them from dangerous mishaps, including death.

  
Sadly, while the Federal Government is still battling unsuccessfully to end the era of terrorists and sundry outlaws strolling into schools to either kill, or shepherd away hundreds of students in a manner that questions the country’s security strategies, and the capacity of our intelligence agencies, kidnappers are still devising means and ways of sustaining their heinous trade.
  
One of the latest in such dastard schemes was the recently botched attempt by a two-man team of criminals to kidnap a pupil of Mind Builders School, Omole Phase 1 Annexe, in the Ikeja area of Lagos State.

Luck ran out of Temitayo Olafisoye, who was arrested, while his accomplice, Kayode Akinola, escaped from the scene.
 
Narrating the incident, the Education Director of the school, Mrs. Bolajoko Falore, said that as soon as the parent, who had pulled over to drop the child stepped out of the car, “one of the kidnappers, who assumed that the ignition key was still in the car, entered the car and attempted to drive off, while the parent was trying to get the child out of the car.

“Fortunately, the parent who was holding the car key shouted and drew the attention of the school’s security men and that of other security operatives within the estate, who closed in on the kidnapper and got him arrested, while his partner escaped.

“Upon interrogation, the suspect confessed that the gang has been kidnapping many children in Lagos State for some time now and was subsequently handed over to the Nigeria Police Force at Ojodu Police Station for a thorough investigation, and subsequent prosecution,” Falore said.

After listening to Olafisoye’s confession in a viral video clip, which trended heavily on social media, Mrs. Yewande Omotoso, a mother of three was dumbstruck. When she finally found her voice, she elected to wax philosophical.

“Perhaps what I’ve just watched was intended to serve as a big lesson for me,” she said, adding, “ I don’t know what I would have told my husband if what I just watched happened to me.”

Omotoso continued: “I’m a nursing mother, and my two other kids, a boy, and a girl are of school age. So, when I’m dropping them off at school, I always leave the car engine running with my third child sleeping in the carrier in the back seat. A couple of times, my husband has cautioned me against doing that, but for some strange reasons, I always told myself that the chances of such a thing happening were almost non-existent. 

“With what was averted at Mind Builders School, I can tell you for sure that I will never see my kids to the school gate without the car engine being off, and the vehicle securely locked.”

She also appealed to schools to rise to the occasion and spare parents and guardians, the trauma of losing their children to kidnappers and sundry criminals that abound.

Like Omotoso, many parents have continued to endanger the lives of their kids and wards by not taking precautionary steps when they are dropping them off in schools. 

But as a way of creating sufficient awareness among parents on the need for them not to throw caution to the wind, or take for granted, the security of their children and wards during drop-off and pick-up periods, the school authority organised a personal security awareness forum, with the topic: “Security Consciousness for Parents.” 
  
The school’s education director, Mrs. Falore, in her remarks at the event emphasised the need for parents to be more security conscious of their environments. 
  
The Group Managing Director, Mega Guards Services Limited, Richard Amuwa, who spoke at the forum, charged parents not to toy with the security of their loved ones, just as he tasked them to always be alert and thoroughly assess their environments when dropping off, or picking up children at schools. 
  
The security consultant, who stressed the need for all to be always alert, said the worsening insecurity in the country calls for such alertness.

   
Shedding light specifically on steps that schools should take to secure their environments, Amuwa said: “Beyond hiring enough experienced security men, having CCTV or metal detectors around school, specifically at entrances and exits remains very important. All those things sometimes appear expensive, but at the end of the day, they save lives. Schools should also work with the communities where they are located, know the local police authority, and have an arrangement where the police can patrol around the school at regular intervals, just as it is very important for school owners to work with security experts to identify security threats in good time.
    
On steps that parents should take around schools in order not to be ensnared, he said: “Parents should be conscious of those that are following them, and who is standing beside them. It is not to make parents paranoid, but for them to know that any strange object and human being matters a lot. They should question everything around them; endeavour not to follow the same route always, and also understand dark spots on their routes. At the school compounds or environments, they should switch off car engines; hold and guide the kids; lock the car doors and usher the kids into the school’s compound or hand them over to schools’ security men before returning to their cars.” 
   
While lamenting that only 15 per cent of private schools take the security of their learners seriously, he emphasised that “public schools are the worst. There is no security in public schools. Private schools are the only ones that are trying. Schools should prioritise the idea of getting expert advice from security consultants. Sadly, most schools, including the ones that are charging huge fees don’t want to pay for security services. 
 
 
“I have written personally to schools to teach them security awareness, but parents and students don’t want to pay and this is so bad. They shy away from such initiatives because of the professional fees. So, I think schools need to take basic security education from people like us seriously and get the parents, teachers, and students educated on security matters because insecurity has become a serious issue in the country. We must understand that any country that terrorism has entered must be prepared for a long battle, except the government that is in power is very proactive. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a government in place,” he stated.
  
He advised parent-teacher associations to partner with schools’ authorities and ensure that security education is taken seriously, while also helping in the provision of security gadgets for the schools. “If a school is located in an unsafe environment, the PTA should work with the school to map out how the pupils can be protected. Importantly, parents should know that it is not just the responsibility of the school to protect their children; it is also theirs.
  
“I am part of those that believe that the federal and state government, should do something about safe schools, and I have made a lot of proposals to schools on things that can be done. A lot of schools (both public and private) that have security arrangements in place are even using quack security organisations. It is important that schools put in place watertight security arrangements to protect all within the school community,”Amuwa concluded.
  
Sharing Amuwa’s views on how PTAs and sundry bodies can collaborate with school authorities to protect and preserve the safety of pupils, the PTA chairperson of the school, Mrs. Keji Olutunji-Oladimeji, stressed the need for all concerned to cooperate for the benefit of all concerned.

She said: “If we all stay united, we will progress in better ways. It’s one thing to pass a circular around, or train parents, but it’s another thing for parents to respond appropriately to such circulars. Since PTAs include teachers as well, we all need to keep praying while acting our parts. Importantly, PTAs can also support by sensitising, training, and providing gadgets that aid the process of beefing up schools’ security systems, even as a few schools also engage the services of armed security officials in very sensitive areas.”

Since schools have become some of the softest targets for kidnappers who shepherd away hordes of students, what should be the basic minimum that a school should do to keep learners safe? 

The Lead Faculty, at Etiquette Poise and Protocol Resource Academy, said: “Everyone needs to be prayerful, and very vigilant. This is not a time to employ just anyone in the name of school security staff. It’s not also about wearing a uniform and standing by the gate, but about employing quality security staff that are trained to do the job.

She continued: “Schools must do due diligence before engaging any staff at all – from minders to teaching staff because sometimes, these evil people act based on information that they have at their disposal. So, schools should also train parents on matters of security so that everyone is security conscious, careful, and proactive.”

 
Commenting specifically on the changing tactics of kidnappers as witnessed in their failed attempt to abduct a pupil at the Mind Builder School, Olatunji-Oladimeji advised that school runs should be taken seriously.

Her words: “School runs is not a time to hang out, but if you have to, kindly ensure caution. Thank God that the mother in the Mind Builders School case removed the key from the ignition as she turned round to open the door for her child.

“Parents should also watch out for others. It’s very risky to be on your phone when you pick up or drop off your child. This is a time that all hands must be on deck. If in the process of doing this you notice a strange face looming in the neighborhood, the right thing is to raise the alarm,” she said.