By G9ija

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), on Saturday, said it was relieved that the 91 abducted students of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School Tegina, in Niger, have regained their freedom.

This was announced in a statement by  Mr Samuel Kaalu, the Communications Specialist, UNICEF Kano Field Office, made available to newsmen in Dutse, Jigawa.

It however condemned the death of one child while in captivity.

“Children who went in search of knowledge were abducted at their school which is supposed to be a safe place for them while exercising their fundamental right to education,” the statement quoted Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria as saying.

“They spent 88 days in the hands of their abductors before being freed yesterday.

“It is a tragedy and utterly unacceptable that one of these children died in captivity.

“Hayatu Hashimu was just six years old at the time of his death.

“We rejoice with the families whose children have been freed – and express our deepest condolences to little Hayatu’s family, who have just suffered the worst loss on top of the tragedy they have gone through for the last 88 days,” it added.

“No family should lose a child just because it took the right decision to send that child to school.

“Schools should not be a target. Children should not be a target. Education is a fundamental right of every child and any attack on an educational institution is a violation of that right.

“We reiterate our call to authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure schools are safe for all children.

“UNICEF will work with partners to provide mental health, psychosocial support and counselling services to both the freed learners and their parents,” the statement said.

According to the statement, an estimated 200 Nigerian students were still believed to be held after school abductions that have plagued the country since December, 2020.

It added that more than 1,000 have been abducted in these attacks from December, 2020 to date.

The UNICEF noted that the release of the Tegina students came in the run-up to the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, on 9 September.

“Nigeria is set to host the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration on 25-27 October, 2021.

“The theme of the Conference is “Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice”.

The Safe Schools Declaration, a political commitment to protect education during armed conflict, has been endorsed by 108 states – including Nigeria.

“The October Conference will be the first to be held in Africa and provide an opportunity to galvanise support for, and accelerate implementation of the Declaration by bringing together governments, practitioners, and civil society to share good practice and strengthen cooperation to save lives.

It will also safeguard the right to education for all.

“UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children across more than 190 countries and territories.

“We work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone,” it added.