By Alison McGovern MP, Shadow Minister for International Development
Recently, the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls has received widespread publicity and anger from across the globe. These issues must not fade from the public eye. Just because the news agenda moves on, the suffering does not lessen, and the careful work to return the girls (and all those abducted) to safety must continue.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian finance minister recently joined members of both houses of parliament, hosted by Mr Speaker Bercow, and Gordon Brown who, in his role as a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education has worked with the Nigerian Government on the Safer Schools Initiative, which seeks to provide a safe environment for girls to go to school in the country. Ngozi’s speech, was clear about the complexities involved, however and the wide consequences of the actions of the terrorist organisation behind the kidnappings.
All children getting to school is vital for countries such as Nigeria that has seen significant recent economic growth. Therefore, it is imperative that we do not let the inexcusable actions of Boko Haram make girls across Nigeria – and indeed all of Africa – feel so insecure at their schools that they simply cannot attend their lessons. As a consequence, the Nigerian government has put together their Safer Schools Initiative, in an effort to provide perimeters of fence around schools, alarm systems, sanitary facilities and basic commodities that were to be shown to be painfully lacking in many schools across Nigeria.
Girls and women have every right to wish to take part in the economic development of their country. Without access to education, they will be unable to fulfil their potential, and live out their dreams and aspirations.
So this campaign is of utmost importance. Labour is an advocate for this right to education, and our work in establishing DFID has underpinned the UK Government’s role in resolving this crisis. We will continue to speak up for all children unable to go to school, wherever they are in the world. And only when all children can learn should this campaign cease.