…Abduction encourages out-of-school children – NUT, …It affects students’ interests in education – Sadique,‘…I’ll stop my daughters from acquiring western education’
BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report looks at how the continuous abduction of students in the North by bandits could have further negative effects on the already backward education system of the region.
Records show that between April 14, 2014 and February 26, 2021, more than one thousand students have been kidnapped from their schools. According to The Cable, the breakdown of the number of abducted students in the last seven years indicates that 276 were kidnapped at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, in April, 2014; 113 at Government Girls Secondary and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe state, on February 19, 2018; 344 at Government Science Secondary School, Kankaara, Kastina state, on December 11, 2020; 80 at Islamiyya Schools, Muhuta Town, Kastina state, on December 20, 2020; 27 at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger state, on February 17, 2021, and the latest school kidnapping case occurred in Zamfara state, of which 317 students were kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara state.
Speaking with Blueprint Weekend on the rampant cases of mass abduction of students in the North and its impact on education, a retired principal, Mr. James Okpanachi, said students have become vulnerable and live in fear of being abducted.
He said, “The number could be larger because some of the school kidnapping cases may not have attracted media attention like the aforementioned cases. The rising cases of kidnapping incidents at schools in Nigeria show how vulnerable our schools have become for attackers and kidnappers. It means that kidnappers, bandits, terrorists or whatever name they are called have declared war on the education industry in Nigeria and in extension on the future of our students and country.
“Never in history has the education industry in Nigeria been so threatened by insecurity like its current state. The attacks on schools often have adverse effects not only on students, educators, parents and educational institutions, but also on the government and the society at large.
“The attackers or abductors of school children often do so not only for the purpose of collecting ransom, but also to intimidate and deny young people the access to western education or civilisation. School abductions are dangerous, condemnable and barbaric not only because it truncates a student’s right to education, but could also lead to untimely death of innocent school children who committed no sin other than just trying to be educated.”
Closure of schools
At least seven states in the North have shut schools due to the rise in abductions and banditry in the last two months. The states are Yobe, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto. According to experts, the development may worsen the number of out-of-school children most of whom are in the region as a result of the Almajiri system which UNICEF puts at 10.5 million.
This, according to them, is apart from the school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and incessant strikes by academic and non-academic unions.
Blueprint learnt that while some of the states had shut only boarding schools, others shut all schools located in local government areas deemed volatile.
Our findings showed that Zamfara is the most affected with all its boarding schools shut till further notice. The governor, Bello Matawalle, had in response to the abductions ordered the closure of all schools on Friday.
On Saturday, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state ordered that 10 schools located on the outskirts of the state be shut. On Sunday, Ganduje extended the order to five health training institutions in the state.
In Yobe state on Sunday, the state government ordered boarding school students to go home amidst fear of a Boko Haram attack, exempting only SS3 students.
Katsina state, where the Kankara schoolboys were abducted, also shut all boarding schools on December 13, 2020. The state, which shares boundaries with Zamfara state, however, announced that its schools would re-open on Tuesday.
In Niger where the Kangara schoolboys were abducted, the governor, Abubakar Bello, shut boarding schools in four local government areas last week.
Sokoto state, which also shares borders with Zamfara state, shut 16 boarding schools along its borders. Some of the affected schools are Government Girls Model Secondary School, Illela; Sultan Muhammadu Tambari Arabic Secondary School, Illela; Gamji Girls College, Rabah; Government Secondary School, Gada; Government Secondary School, Gandi; and Government Secondary School, Goronyo.
Both Kaduna and Jigawa states have had to shut some schools in the last two months due to banditry, according to the BBC.
Reacting to the development, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) expressed frustration at the federal government’s inability to stop the security challenges facing the country. In a statement signed by its spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, it stated that, “We call on northern leaders to interrogate the extent of levity of the federal authorities in not being able to anticipate and checkmate the manoeuvres of marauding bands of criminals that roam northern communities and operate at will, targeting such soft spots as schools.
“We see the recent escalation of kidnap of school children as a grand design to cripple the educational viability of the northern region after having messed up its economy and mutual cohesion.”
Future of education
Similarly, Blueprint investigations revealed that following the release of some 279 students of Government Girls Junior Secondary School Jangebe, parents may be forced to stop education of their wards for ‘fear of the unknown.’
And giving the seeming incessant security concerns within the state, there are fears that parents might decide to pull out their daughters from schools. This indication was given by one of the parents, Malam Akilu Abubakar Mayanchi, who threatened to withdraw his wards from school.
Mayanchi, who consistently trusted that the abductees would be rescued by the state government while the ordeal lasted, however, said it was time for him to withdraw his two daughters.
He said: “From now on, my daughters will be withdrawn from western education system, considering the fact that we are not security conscious not only in Zamfara, but the entire northern part of the country and some parts of the South.”
He spoke to Blueprint shortly after Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle, in company of his wife, Aisha and some top government officials received the abductees at Government House Gusau Tuesday.
Mayanchi said his daughters returned to the school four days before they were kidnapped. The father said, Aisha, one of his daughters, was sick for over a week, and that after recovering partially, he directed her alongside her sister to return to school.
“I couldn’t sleep since the incident occurred and what kept on coming up in my mind was how I directed my daughters to go back to school, particularly Aisha who was sick. During their abduction, whenever I remembered my last discussions with them, when I gave them the standing order to go back to school, I just couldn’t sleep again,” Mayanchi said.
He appealed to the federal and state governments to intensify efforts at mitigating banditry and other criminality bedevilling the state for over a decade, as well as other states in the North-west so affected.
Similarly, a social commentator, Mr. Olukotun Sadique, said abduction has negative effects on students’ interest in education and performance.
“When students are kidnapped, they risk being traumatised for life, even after their rescue. It affects their interests in education and academic performances and destroys their life dreams. For instances, some of the Kidnapped victims never get to return, some are married off prematurely, some exposed to child labour, while many others, particularly the girls are often exposed to different forms of sexual abuses.
“If the current trends of kidnappings are allowed to continue, it would cause more severe damages to the country and the future of our young people, and the entire country could be in jeopardy. Therefore, there is the need for security agencies and indeed authorities at all levels of the government to take proactive steps to address the rising insecurity in our schools and country,” he said.
Effects on education
Speaking with this reporter on Monday, the public relations officer, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Emmanuel Hwande, said the rising cases of banditry and closure of schools could increase the number of out-of-school children or derail the academic progress of pupils.
He called on the government to improve security around schools.
He said, “When a teacher goes to school and is not guaranteed of his safety, it will affect his performance. Schools being shut down completely will impact negatively on the education sector, the system.
“The number of out-of-school children will continue to rise because parents whose children are back from bandits will begin to think otherwise and will not want them to go to school. The children will then begin roaming the streets and in the future, these children will be recruited into criminal activities.”
President Buhari’s avowals, assurances
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerians that last Friday’s abduction of female students from Government Girls Science Secondary School, Jangebe, will be the last to happen.
The president’s statement was relayed through the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, who led a federal government’s delegation to sympathise with the people and government of Zamfara state.
He said new measures had been developed by the federal government which would bring complete end to all forms of criminality in the nation.
“The president is saddened by the abduction of the students from Jangebe and reassures you that the government has all the resources and wherewithal to contain these criminals.
“Buhari also commended Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara’s efforts against armed banditry and promised continued support to bring lasting peace. The federal government will continue its partnership with the Zamfara government and its citizens in resolving the security challenges facing the state,” he said.
On the way out of the menace, Mr. Okpanchi urged the government to put modalities in place to protect schools.
“Governments must show strength and rise up to her responsibilities to protect our schools, lives, and property. Education must not be allowed to be silenced by terrorists or kidnappers. School children and indeed educational institutions deserve to be protected from becoming soft targets for kidnappers, bandits or terrorists.
“Schools must not be allowed to be turned into battle grounds where people go to display their grievances, collect baits for ransom or show their kidnapping strengths. Failure to protect the schools is a failure to the present and future generation. All hands have to be on deck to help secure our schools and in extension the future of our youths and children. No student deserves to be kidnapped anywhere.
“Education remains a critical instrument that can be used to defeat poverty and terrorism. The more the schools are secured and open, the more young people will be empowered to resist extremisms, and the lesser the available recruits for terrorism or kidnappers. If Nigeria must win the war against terrorism or kidnappings, schools have to be better protected and funded to enhance their capacity to help provide the much needed supports to reduce ignorance, extremism and poverty, all of which are stimuli for kidnapping and many other forms of terrorism.
“Thus, government at all levels, communities, and educational institutions have to do more to protect the schools from all forms of attacks, particularly from the menace of kidnappings. Campus security should be taken seriously by schools in line with modern day security realities. Educational institutions should not wait until they are targeted before they put preventive measures in place to protect their campuses, hostels, students, teachers and infrastructures. There has to be increased security awareness among all stakeholders in education and synergy among schools and security agencies, and among schools and their host communities in order to enhance security of schools.
“More proactive steps have to be taken to secure schools from bandit or terrorist attacks and to stop the kidnapping of students. This is because if the emerging trend of kidnappings, especially students’ abductions are allowed to continue, it will not only consume our education sector, but also the future of our country. Our children and teachers deserve to learn and teach under a peaceful atmosphere devoid of any form of fear or intimidation either by kidnappers, bandits or terrorists.
“Let us secure the future of our children and nation by playing our required individual and collective roles to help secure our schools from all forms of attacks or kidnappings. Insecurity should not be allowed to continue in our country, and school abduction must not be allowed to become a thriving enterprise for kidnappers or other selfish individuals.”