SPOTLIGHT: St. Bridget’s College Aba, a Model in Child Protection – By Nnaemeka Nwokocha

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Child Protection refers to the intentional act of safeguarding a child or children from envisaged and unforeseen harm including abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. The United Nations Convention on The Rights of The Child entrenches child protection as a key right of every child anywhere in the world. To this end, every individual and institution that embarks on education and other care-giving activities involving children is duty-bound to incorporate effective and verifiable child protection measures into its operations.

In line with the aforementioned international standards of child protection, St Bridget’s College (SBC) Aba, a full-boarding school for boys and girls, incorporates various forms of child protection measures into its daily operations as a responsible and responsive institution of learning. Such measures are broadly categorized into Physical, Health, Emotional, Spiritual and Legal protection.

In the area of physical protection, the school compound has been fortified with a perimeter fence which safeguards everyone within and wards off intruders such as trespassing humans and straying wild animals. There are laid-down procedures that must be followed by students who have the need to leave the school premises at any time. Their movement must be properly documented through appropriate permissions by the authorized staff. The school compound is under a 24-hour surveillance by trained security personnel and observatory cameras placed at strategic but secret locations around the entire premises. There is a 24-hour power supply in the premises which ensures that every corner is brightly lit at night to create adequate visibility. Besides, the school employs resident staff to manage the hostels and conduct the entire school activities after school hours. These hostel staff always have their eagle eyes on each child as they know them by their names, and this helps them protect children from getting into harmful situations.

Furthermore, the hostels and classrooms are spacious and adequately ventilated so that the air inside them is never stuffy but always clean. Very importantly too, the regimented life of the school community which is regulated by time schedules and bells enables the authority to know where each student is at any given time. Thus, it is possible to give an accurate account of each student’s location at any time, maintain orderliness and ensure discipline since there is always a productive activity allocated to each time, such as studies, prep, siesta, sports, dining, worship, lights-out and so on, round the clock.

Regarding health protection, the school kitchen and dining hall are essentially kept clean and free from any living and non-living things that could contaminate food. There is a 24-hour supply of clean and safe water all over the compound so that everyone drinks and bathes with clean water. Equally, the hygienic practice of hand-washing in classrooms and elsewhere has been given a serious place in the life of the school. In the kitchen and dining hall, the food served the children is hygienically prepared by trained and qualified cooks who make it a point of duty to see that only wholesome food in clean utensils gets to the table for the children to eat. In addition, the school has a strict policy of zero-tolerance for food materials considered as contrabands which include various canned foods and perishables. Such contrabands are never allowed into the school premises. This is aimed at forestalling food poisoning by preventing students from eating expired and contaminated food in the hostels. The school also operates a well-equipped clinic manned by professional health personnel. When a child’s health challenge goes beyond the capacity of the resident nurses, no time is wasted before the child is taken to a hospital to see a doctor. In addition to these, the school provides sufficient toilet facilities for students, staff and visitors, and these toilets are kept clean and ever disinfected. Finally, the hostels and classrooms are thoroughly cleaned and fumigated against harmful reptiles, rodents, insects and other pests during the holiday periods. This keeps everywhere and everyone safe when academic session resumes.

One of the unique selling points of St Bridget’s College is her uncompromising stand on the emotional and spiritual welfare of the students. The authorities insist that in order to produce a whole person, the emotional and spiritual needs of each student must be protected. To execute this, the school operates a full-scale chapel manned by an ordained priest. The chapel caters for the spiritual needs of the children through constant worship, prayer and other religious activities that enrich the soul. In addition, children are protected from bullying. Indeed, bullies have no place in SBC as they are summarily expelled when they are found to be unrepentant after efforts have been made to reform them. This measure is aimed at protecting the younger and weaker students and making the school community a real and humane home for them. Another aspect of the emotional protection is the school’s standing policy of zero tolerance for the use of foul words, abusive words, degrading words and vulgar language on people, by the students or staff. This ensures that no one is allowed to scare others away from the school using abusive language. The resultant effect is that the social environment of the school is friendly, reassuring, accommodating and safe for all.

The school is given legal protection by the efforts of the legal team led by the Legal Adviser. The team is responsible for protecting the school community from internal and external acts that could be inimical to the well-being of the school and students. In like manner, the wise, motherly, fatherly and experienced counsel of the Director and members of the School Board protect the staff from preventable academic and administrative mistakes. By extension therefore, the children are protected from such errors, ensuring that the content of their academic work is wholesome. This explains why St Bridget’s College produces students and graduates that are distinguished by their stellar performances in all external examinations and in their chosen careers all over the wider world.

Finally, to protect the children from the negative effects of stress, social and sporting activities are designed and executed to enable the students unwind from the rigours of serious academic work. Varieties of sporting activities are done at the school’s sports centre. This is in addition to indoor games and social variety programmes well-crafted for the benefit of the child.

Through all the foregoing efforts towards child protection, the school demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the all-round safety of the school premises, social environment, and the human community in general. These, unarguably, places this school above others in every aspect of learning and child development. Landlords, leaders and residents of the school’s host community are also carried along in efforts towards ensuring all-round safety of the students.

SBC Aba is therefore an environment where parents are encouraged to have their children educated as the safety of such children is adequately assured.

Nnaemeka Nwokocha
B. Sc. Political Science
Post Graduate Diploma in Education, PGDE
Professional Diploma, Guidance and Counseling
Professional Diploma, Human Resources Management
Professional Diploma, Project Management
Consultant Educator
Former Dean of Studies, St Bridget’s College, Aba.
nwokochaemeka227@gmail.com, 07044284844.

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