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Monday 23 June 2014

The abduction of over 250 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno, North West Nigeria in mid-April has sparked outrage from the global public and cast a spotlight on the situation in the north of the country. The kidnapping has catalyzed an unprecedented national campaign in Nigeria, which has now generated attention from international media, celebrities and politicians around the world, who have expressed support through #bringbackourgirls.

“A child’s right to education and protection is universal and non-negotiable” says Save the Children South Africa CEO Gugu Ndebele. “The fact that girls attempting to further their education can be abducted and forced into marriage in this day and age is shameful and our hearts go out to the families of the missing girls. As Save the Children SA we will continue supporting the efforts of organizations that are aimed at bringing the girls home. Ensuring that children are safe, healthy and receive quality education is central to the work of Save the Children around the world and here in South Africa”. A group of concerned children from Save the Children’s Free State Children’s Committee in Qwa Qwa came together to lend their voices to the campaign. Teboho, the Chairperson of the Children’s Committee, explains why it was important for South African children to become involved in the campaign. “We were deeply saddened by what has happened to our sisters in Nigeria and wanted to lend our voices to the campaign because we know first-hand that schools are not always safe but children must be protected and get the education they deserve”. Evidence shows that there are worrying levels of violence in South African schools. A study[1] released in 2013 highlighted that 22.2% of learners were found to have been threatened with violence or had been the victim of an assault, robbery and/or sexual assault at school in the past year.

School-based violence and abuse compromises children’s physical and psychological well-being denying their right to protection and education. Save the Children South Africa works to empower Children’s Committees in 120 Free State schools to become school safety champions by increasing their knowledge, awareness and readiness to take action to prevent violence. To this end, we are training 600 learners to assess the particular needs of their school and community regarding the incidence of violence in schools to promote a safe and caring school environment. Ms. Ndebele concludes that “the overall goal of this project is that all learners know what to do and who to turn to if they or their peers are victims of violence. Our school champions have already shown their creativity by organizing a march to a local police station to ask for more presence around the school to protect them from gangsterism that compromises their safety when commuting from and to home. We believe that schools are at the centre of communities and have great potential to lead on social transformation to build a safer South Africa for all its children”.

For interviews and further information, please contact: Gilles Virgili Save the Children South Africa Tel: 071 752 9595

[1] National School Safety Study, Realized by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) for the Department of Basic Education (DBE), 2013