The University of Maiduguri, UNIMAID, is partnering with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to train teachers in Borno State on psychosocial support for victims of insurgency and conflict and disaster risk reduction.
The partnership is in response to the humanitarian emergency in the North east brought about by the Boko Haram insurgency and its particular threat to child welfare.
Under the partnership, the University is to include psychosocial support training, and conflict and disaster risk education modules into its academic programmes.
This is expected to provide teachers who pass through the university’s education programmes with skills to professionally handle children who have experienced conflict.
The Chief of Field Office at Nigeria’s UNICEF office, Geoffrey Ijumba, led an advocacy for the programme, which was eventually approved by the university’s Vice Chancellor, Abubakar Njodi.
Ijumba said that the initiative was to imbue teachers with the skills to be able to respond to the needs of children who are usually the most affected by any conflict.
“Education in emergencies is about children, teachers and their well being. We all know that currently our children are facing risks,especially given what is happening in the northeast region and it’s our responsibility to make them feel welcome, included and safe in school.
“Every single child who is displaced, to whom we offer access to temporary learning spaces; or is in host community schools, carries a baggage of negative experiences which can affect socialization and learning,” he stated.
Ijumba pointed out that people are more familiar with the physical consequences caused by conflicts but often ignore the invisible impact on mental health which is equally as dangerous and needs to be addressed.
He expressed the hope that the collaboration between UNICEF and the university will help address the invisible consequences of the conflict.
The Vice Chancellor described the initiative as “a welcome development, adding, “It is a good thing for UNICEF to come to support us because up here, we are behind educationally compared to other parts of Nigeria and we need all the support we can get.”
Njodi said that it was important for the university, which has a student population of nearly 50,000, to come up with innovative ways of supporting students whose life had been impacted in one way or another by the insurgency.
“We want Nigerian children to be healed, we want them to be welcome in classrooms. The bottom line is saving the lives of children,” added Lidra Remacka, a consultant with UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office.