From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has raised concern over the lack of access to education for children at the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Benue State and warned that this would adversely affect their future.
UNICEF’s Chief of Enugu Field Office, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, gave the warning during a monitoring visit to IDPs camps in Benue State on Saturday.
UNICEF is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. The agency has been involved in providing water and sanitation services in IDPs camps across Benue State.
It would be recalled that the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) had put the figure of IDPs in the state to over 1.5 million including over 10,000 Cameroonian refugees taking refuge in the state.
Conteh observed during the visit that children in the various IDP camps in the state could not access education and that even camps that have makeshift classroom arrangements did not have instructional materials and office space for volunteer teachers.
The UNICEF Chief of Enugu Field Office who visited Abagena, Daudu I (UN SHelter) and Uikpam camps, where he monitored the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes of the agency and interacted with camp leaders as well as WASH committees in the camps expressed shock that there were no school facilities in most of the camps.
At the Ukpiam IDP camp where there were only 14 volunteer teachers to cater for the almost 6000 children, it was discovered that some of the children who are of school age has no classrooms but sit under trees to take classes just as there were no instructional materials for them.
Dr. Conteh who expressed worry over the development said it was not good for the students to be learning under trees and stressed the
need to provide learning facilities for IDPs children in the state.
“We will speak with colleagues, the Benue State Government and the state agency responsible for basic education in the state with the view to improving on the situation.We will make sure that the rights of children are upheld. This is one area we are going to intervene,” he said.
Dr. Conteh who however expressed satisfaction with the level of sanitation in the camps commended the various WASH committees for doing a good job.
Representatives of the camps including Iliagh Terhile (Abagena), Angela Omirigbe (Daudu I) and Matthew Asarga (Uikpam), thanked UNICEF for her intervention even as they urged the organization as well as other donor agencies to do more in alleviating their plight and ensure that they return to their ancestral homes within the shortest possible period.
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