By Adam Alqali
The Government of Norway has donated $11.5 million, (approximately 3.6 billion Naira) to improve basic education and support girls and women who have been victims of sexual violence by Boko Haram in the conflict-affected northeast Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe.
The funding is part of the Safe Schools Initiative in northern Nigeria. In 2013, Norway was a pioneer member of the Safe Schools Initiative committee established in response to Boko Haram attacks on schools in the northeast and the urgent need to provide a safe learning environment for children.
With UNICEF support, about one hundred thousand children are currently accessing education through Temporary Learning Spaces and schools in northeast Nigeria. This fund will further boost access to education for an additional half a million boys and girls in internally displaced persons’ camps, host communities and areas of Borno state that have recently become accessible areas to humanitarian assistance.
“We believe in the importance of doing what we can to break the cycle of violence in northeast Nigeria”, said the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Jens-Petter Kjemprud. “This funding will provide more children complete basic education in a good learning environment and will provide much-needed counselling for girls who have suffered unimaginable trauma at the hands of Boko Haram”, he added.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Mr. Børge Brende also attended the signing ceremony to formalise the grant. The generous funding from Norway will provide children, especially girls affected by the conflict, with uniforms to wear to school and will enable them to learn in secure, safe and protected environments.
Teachers will be trained to improve their skills so they can deliver quality teaching and improve learning results for children; school systems will be improved through training and mentoring of head-teachers on management knowledge and skills. School Based Management Committee (SBMCs) members will be trained in school planning, including disaster risk reduction to make schools a safer place for children.
The funding will also support approximately 1,600 of the thousands of girls and women that UNICEF estimates have been raped, abducted and forcibly married as a result of the conflict. Not only have these victims of violence suffered the trauma of their experiences when they were held by Boko Haram, but when they have managed to escape or have been liberated, they often face rejection by their communities and families. Instead of being welcomed back, they frequently face stigma, discrimination, and in some cases violence, especially when they return pregnant or with children born out of that sexual violence.
In addition to traditional stigma associated with sexual violence, many communities are afraid that girls and women who have been held by Boko Haram may have been indoctrinated by their captors. Part of the Norwegian funds will be used in Borno State to help these women and girls to reintegrate with their families and communities and rebuild their lives. The funding will also help to empower these women and girls to engage in the community peacebuilding process.
“Tackling the crisis in northeast Nigeria requires a broad coalition of support from all”, said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, “The Government of Norway was with us at the beginning of this crisis, providing support, and they are still here. This latest funding will go a long way to get thousands of children back in school and will help to reintegrate girls and women who were victims of Boko Haram back into their communities”.