Making schools safer and children more confident

© UNICEF/ Abubakar

The new school year in northeast Nigeria is bittersweet. Education has been one of the biggest causalities of the Boko Haram conflict, with over 3 million children now in need of emergency education support. At least 2,295 teachers have been killed and almost 1,400 schools destroyed as a result of the conflict.

One of the ways UNICEF is responding to the education crisis in the northeast is our Education in Emergencies programme, funded by the European Union, which equips teachers with the knowledge and skills to protect their students when disaster strikes.

© UNICEF/ Abubakar

“I remember before the crisis classes were going well and we might even reward the students with an excursion to the zoo,” says Muhammad Kyari, a teacher from Konduga, reflecting on how things have changed since the crisis began. “I would travel with them to Maiduguri from Konduga to visit the zoo and they could see for themselves the dangerous animals…”

The conflict brought new challenges to providing a safe place to learn for his students. Muhammad has since become head teacher of his school and takes very seriously the responsibility of protecting his students in the face of ongoing security threats.

© UNICEF/ Abubakar

With support from the European Union, UNICEF and the Borno State Universal Basic Education Board have been training teachers like Muhammed on how they can provide their students with psychosocial support to help them overcome traumatic experiences.

© UNICEF/ Abubakar

The blind fold game aims to help teachers and student build trust and friendship and to take responsibility for each other. In a challenging or chaotic scenario, the blindfolded partner learns to rely completely on their partner who can see and to follow their lead. The other partner also learns to take responsibility to ensure his or her own safety and the safety of others.

© UNICEF/ Abubakar

The balloon game introduces the topic of child protection in a fun, non-threatening manner. Participants take on different roles as targets, attackers, bullies, supporters, silent bystanders and defenders in an action game. This way participants can visualize and understand the issue of child protection and its actors.

Muhammed has learnt practical yet simple steps to support children who have become withdrawn and make them feel like part of the class — such as identifying a child by his or her name regularly, or simply making sure to say hello more often.

© UNICEF/ Abubakar

For the new school term, Muhammad looks forward to working with his pupils to highlight how far they have come and to inspire in them even greater dreams in the coming year.