Reprieve may have come for the parents of the 125,000 pupils in the 104 Federal Government Colleges as the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education and Office of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons have confirmed to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that they are “studying and looking into the issues relating to the compulsory insurance levy of N5,000 per student imposed by the government.”
The Special Rapporteur on the right to education is also seeking “additional information on the scheme with reference if possible to other documents – which detail the requirements of the insurance scheme, along with any additional information you may have.”
The development was disclosed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a statement in Lagos.
This followed an urgent appeal submitted by SERAP to Mr. Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism as well as Gordon Brown of the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
According to Mumuni, “SERAP welcomes the urgent intervention and attention by Kishore Singh and Professor Chaloka Beyani in this matter and looks forward to a positive resolution of the matter by them. We hope that the other mandates will follow suit. Now that the two UN mandates are engaged in the matter, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is strongly advised to suspend the implementation of this draconian insurance policy pending the final determination of the matter by the special rapporteurs.”
“This is important if the government is not to prejudice the final outcome of the consideration of the matter by the two mandates. As a member of the United Nations, Nigeria has a binding legal obligation not to circumvent its rules or undermine the authority of its mechanisms or render them impotent. Nigeria in fact should not be seen to be making it harder for UN institutions to effectively discharge their mandates,” Mumuni also said.
It would be recalled that SERAP had on February 24, 2015 sent an urgent appeal to the four UN Special Rapporteurs and the Special Envoy on Global Education over the imposition of compulsory insurance scheme for students of the Federal Government Colleges.
In the appeal, the organisation asked the mandates to use their “good offices and positions to urgently request the Nigerian government to immediately and unconditionally withdraw the exploitative insurance scheme imposed on the students on the excuse of protection against attack and violence by Boko Haram.”
The organisation also said that it “Considers this insurance scheme to constitute an abusive practice and renouncement of the obligation by the government to provide education as a public good. The insurance scheme also falls within the prohibited grounds of discrimination and amounts to exploitation of the students and parents involved, and is a shocking attack on the fundamental right of access to education.”
“Rather than expanding public educational opportunities for all Nigerian children, especially children from poor families, the government is restricting them, and commercialising education. In its response to the Boko Haram, the government has not prioritised the right of children to quality education. Many Nigerian children are driven to Cameroon as refugees and made to recite Cameroon national anthem as a precondition for attending school,” the organisation also said.
“Imposing a mandatory insurance scheme on students and their parents will also not contribute to better security for the children. Inequalities in opportunities for education will be exacerbated if this insurance scheme is allowed to continue. The government is simply failing in its international human rights obligation to ensure the right to education in a safe and protected environment that is conducive for learning,” the organisation said.
“All children have a right to access school and be provided with quality education regardless of the circumstances under which they live.”
“SERAP is in possession of a circular to this effect which was sent to the schools. According to the circular, In view of the current security challenges in the country which has impacted seriously on the safety of our students and teachers in Federal Unity Colleges, the Ministry of Education has decided to engage the services of NICON Insurance Company to insure our students. To this end, an Insurance Premium of N5000 (Five Thousand Naira Only) is to be paid once in a year. Students are hereby expected to pay the above amount through the college upon resumption for third term.”
The organisation therefore asked the rapporteurs and special envoy to urgently ask the government to: immediately and unconditionally withdraw the mandatory insurance scheme for students in Federal Unity Colleges throughout the country and to return any premium that may have been paid; make every effort to ensure that school children are fully protected throughout Nigeria; and ensure that the Boko Haram and any other extremist groups do not restrict the ability of the Nigerian children to realise their human rights and pursue their dreams.