It is the responsibility of parents to make sure the children are healthy, safe, and supported as they set off to school every morning, and they expect that the children will return home safely at the end of the day, unfortunately the increase in security and safety concerns in schools over the last ten years is a cause for anxiety and raising questions on the competence of regulatory authorities.
Cases of kidnapping, bullying, sexual harassment, pedophilia, substance abuse, and other incidents arising from school negligence lend credence to the clamour for a safe environment that will make the school inviting for learning. Perhaps there is no better time to address the issue of safety and security in schools than now before it blossoms into other crimes that are alien to this part of the world.
Insecurity has been so prevalent in schools since the days of the Boko Haram insurgents when the Islamic extremist group randomly kidnapped students in their hundreds for ransoms in the northern parts of Nigeria. Today, kidnappings for various reasons across all parts of the country have become the order of the day. Security and safety in schools need to be given the attention it deserves.
Safety and security are intertwined terminologies. According to Mr. Lucky Ekpo, a security consultant, “Security is about crime prevention, and safety is about hazards mitigation. Safety is also measures taken to prevent accident or unintentional harms.” Safety is what is experienced when security measures is put in place. Safety is the feeling of being safe from those things that are likely to cause harm.
It is important to take safety and security seriously so that students can learn in an environment free from trepidation.
Recently, on February 9, 2023, following the unfortunate death of a 12-year-old student at a school inter-house sports competition; many puzzles remained unresolved for almost a month about the true cause of her death. First, the victim did not participate in any of the sports events on that day and was not known to have been ill before the day. After a failed attempt at a cover up by the school, saying she slumped; the autopsy report, dated March 1, 2023 later revealed that the cause of death was asphyxia and electrocution. However, an unverified story had earlier attributed her death to electrocution from the wire connected to a fluffy candy stand where many the kids milled around. Sad to say that when this happened, no ambulance or first aiders around to rescue the situation before she was taken to the hospital where she was confirmed dead on arrival.
In 2022, a Kano State High Court sentenced the proprietor of a college, Abdulmalik Tanko, 38, alongside an accomplice, Hashim Isyaku, to death for kidnapping and killing a five-year-old pupil of his school.
In another incident, public outrage trailed a viral video depicting improper conduct among children from a particular Lagos school when they went for a trip to Dubai, which questions the role of the school in the safety of the children put in their care.
In 2021, a 12-year-old student of a college in Lagos was allegedly beaten by his schoolmates for refusing to join a cult group which resulted in the boy’s death. The poser here would be: Was the school aware of a cult group in the School? Was any report made to any staff after the incident before the boy died days after? However, the school claims he died from an injury sustained at a football match.
The issue of school vans handling is another area where many private schools have been found wanting when safety is mentioned. When you move through the streets in the morning, you are confronted with school buses that are loaded beyond capacity conveying children to schools. In some cases, commercial motorbikes are engaged to carry the children and in some cases carrying more in excess of the required number of passengers. One might ask if the parents are aware of the pitiable and precarious condition in which the children are conveyed to school. In 2016, two pupils of a school in Mushin, Lagos, were flung out of a moving bus driven by the Proprietor of the school at Costain Roundabout, Lagos. In another school bus related case in July 2022, two children suffocated to death inside a school bus conveying them home in Lagos. There was also a case in Akure, where a child inside a moving school bus popped his head out and got killed by another vehicle overtaking the bus. If there was a bus assistant in the school van, the child would have been cautioned and the unnecessary death prevented.
In 2022, the fence of a private school collapsed on Ajose Street, in Amukoko area of Lagos State, killing two children who were just passing by. This couldn’t have happened without signs or cracks that have been overlooked by the school for some time by the school authorities. Structural defects and electrical faults neglect anywhere in the school can pose safety risks.
When a school is secure, parents have a feeling of security, and students see the school as a haven.
In 2019, An Ikeja domestic violence and sexual offences court sentenced a 47-year-old man, Adegboyega Adenekan, a school supervisor, to 60 years imprisonment for child defilement. You might ask why no staff of the school was able to see this, or why no surveillance camera was able to capture this act.
These are just a few of the many cases that made headlines but more of such cases go unreported.
The issue of insecurity and lack of safety measures is not limited to primary and secondary schools; insecurity abounds in our tertiary institutions. On April 9, 2023, a student of Obafemi Awolowo University was beaten to death over an alleged mobile phone theft in one of the halls. One would ask why students would take the laws into their hands if the campus security or disciplinary body is functional. The story is the same in all higher institutions in the country. There are cells of cults scattered across the schools and from time pose real threat to peace in our campuses.
“Security is about crime prevention, and safety is about hazard mitigation. Safety is also the measures taken to prevent accident or unintentional harm.”
What are some safety and security measures a school can put in place?
The school can consult security experts to create unique security guidelines for stakeholders to follow. Teachers and students should be trained on the importance of alerting the school authority about suspicious issues that can put the school community at risk. There should be slogans in primary and secondary schools geared towards security and safety awareness. For example “See Something Say Something”
Background Check on Employees:
Proper background checks of would-be employees of the school should be done so that people of questionable characters are not employed.
Engage trained Security Personnel
Most Nigerian schools, especially public schools, lack security personnel. The best they have are mere gatemen who double as security personnel. Schools should have security guards that can smell a threat and mitigate them.
The school compound should be fenced and gated. This way, the people who come and go out are screened by the security guards at the school gate. Most schools are exposed to incursion by vandals, intruders, and pilferers of school property because they have unfettered access. They normally come in the guise of coming to play football on the field before perpetrating their nefarious acts. Allowing free rein through the school facility can compromise safety and security.
There should be a strict order restricting people from parking and loitering outside of the school fence. This is to enable security to keep track of the activities around the school wall.
Installation of CCTV
Mere installation of surveillance cameras can deter bad behavior. Surveillance cameras offer you the opportunity to monitor staff, students, and visitors as they enter or exit the school compound.
Good Storage Facilities
for the protection of students’ valuables and official documents must be put in place.
Repair of Dilapidated Structure
The poor maintenance culture of facilities is a trademark of most institutions in the country, and this impact negatively on the safety of students and everyone that needs to use the facilities. Schools should check hazard-prone areas and make prompt repairs.
Bullying is carried out in almost all schools and it goes unnoticed because the bully knows when to strike, that is when no one in authority is watching. But this should be taken seriously because it poses a serious security threat to the life and the well-being of students.
Primary and high school students should never be left alone without constant monitoring of their various activities during school hours to ensure that cultism and bullying are promptly nipped in the bud.
Proper Identification of Guardian
The school management should give a standing order that only the parents or the person whom the parents have designated are the ones allowed to pick up the child at school. This way, you can checkmate strangers with negative intentions.
Issuance of ID Cards
Staff and students should always be in the possession of the identity cards issued by the school authority.
A Security Club could be formed in the school where discussions on security issues at a global scale will be discussed. There, they are taught what to do when there is fear of danger. Students should be encouraged to report suspicious moves of persons within the school premises to the school management.
Regular Security Drills
There is need to respond to the central security alarm system installed in the school premises in case of an emergency. There should also be random security drills
Use Metal Detectors
The school should randomly search the bags of students and frisk them to ensure that they do not bring dangerous weapons that can endanger the lives of other students because students have brought weapons to the school to settle scores in the past.
Issuance of Exeat Cards
It is pertinent for the school to create exeat passes for the students so that they do not leave the school compound without the knowledge of the school.
Discourage the Use of Phones in Primary and Secondary Schools
Parents should be discouraged from giving their wards telephones to the school environment so that they are not distracted or exposed to sites that can push them to delinquent acts.
There should be fumigation of the school during vacation to control dangerous pests and insects around. This will prevent students from inhaling poisonous chemicals while in school.
To address minor health issues, schools should ensure the availability of sickbays within the premises. The sick bay should be well equipped to readily support injured pupils or students showing symptoms of minor illness which manifest while at school. Schools must request medical reports of the students from their parents so that the teachers can be aware of the health condition of their students and know how to handle every child to prevent wrong medical treatment that could be fatal. It is advised that the school be registered with nearby hospitals in case of emergency that the sickbay cannot handle.
Check Electric Lines
The schools’ electrical devices should be monitored in case of open or leakage from the electrical cords to safeguard students and teachers from any form of electrocution. The overloading of electrical circuits should be avoided to prevent any electrical accidents. The main electric switches should be put off after school hours to prevent a conflagration that may arise from electric surge.
Wet Floor Warning Alerts
Nowadays, almost all the passage in schools are tiled; wet floor warning signs should be put in place when the floor is being mopped to prevent slipping.
When safety and security measures are proactively established; and the government is alive to its regulatory responsibilities, by penalizing defaulting schools, only then would the confidence of students, teachers, parents, and the communities, in general be assured.