Of late, oservers have noted that kidnappings and abductions of pupils and students in various schools, especially in some parts of the northern part of the country, have amplified the roles of gender discrimination, disasters, conflict, poverty, language barrier, child labour and forced marriage in forcing more children out of school.
They note that no fewer than 1,000 children have been kidnapped in Nigeria since December 2020, causing many kids to stay out of school in the country.
Also, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) notes that the population of out-of-school-children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million children to 13.2 million children, describing it as the highest in the world.
According to it, most of these children are in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa and lately states in the North-west where insecurity such as kidnappings, banditry and abductions, among others, have disrupted academic activities.
The minister of state for education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, corroborated this when he observed that Nigeria, with an estimated 10,193,918 children out school has the highest number of out-of-school-children in sub-Sahara Africa.
“The current challenges affecting the Nigerian education system has left much to be desired, the system is characterised by high illiteracy level, infrastructural decay and deficits,’’ he observed.
Similarly, the Federal Ministry of Education states that the number of out-of-school children has witnessed an increased with not less than five per cent of the country’s population.
Perspective observers then believe that kidnappings, banditry and abductions, among others, of school children, have in no small measure contributed to the number of out-of-school-children.
They note that although the spate of kidnappings and abduction of children and persons have reduced, parents and guardians of children affected are scared of returning their wards to school.
Worried by this development, Mrs Ibironke Adeagbo, former British Safety Council director, describes kidnapping and abduction as problems affecting the education sector in the country in recent years.
She observes that in the past 12 years, only 2011 and 2019 did not record brazen attacks on schools in the country.
She also cites the kidnapping of students at Government Secondary School, Kaya in Zamfara in north-western Nigeria where 73 students were kidnapped on September 1 as one of the causes of out-of-school-children.
She notes that Britain should not watch helplessly as the country it brought to existence passes through a depressing phase with incessant kidnappings and snapping of innocent school kids from classrooms.
“I call on British prime minister, Borris Johnson, to come to the rescue by deploying advanced British technology to tackle and end these shameful events in northern part of Nigeria.
“The latest kidnapping in Zamfara is deeply disturbing and Britain should not watch while these tragedies unfold endlessly and leave our kids ruined and parents devastated.
“Eleven states have been affected in the attacks with 48 per cent of the attacks occurring in boarding schools, while the north eastern part of the country has experienced 73 per cent of the attacks.
“Britain colonised Nigeria and nurtured the country to amalgamation in 1914, making the country Africa’s most populous nation but the arrangement has faced serious problems after more than 100 years of existence.
“This is the time for the British government to rise to the challenge and help one of the key nations of the Commonwealth of Nations that has been in deep trouble over the years.
“Kidnapping of innocent school children is totally unacceptable. Humanity must rise to the challenge and crush this problem which is destroying the future of young people.
“Nigeria needs help and the current tragic events in the country should not be allowed to fester because future generations of the country will be worse for it,’’ Adeagbo, also the chief executive officer of UK charity, IA-Foundation, pleads.
She says her group had been engaging with the Nigerian government over the years to find common ground for development, especially in the education sector.
According to her, her foundation has scheduled a fund raising event in Lagos to stimulate the interest of individuals and corporate bodies on the need to tackle problems in the country’s education sector.
She insists that the initiative to tackle problems in Nigeria’s education sector is part of effort by her organisation to bridge the gap in accessing education and to open opportunities for the children.
Mr Austin Johnson, a parent who has two children in a boarding school in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, points out that it is important for all hands to be on deck to address the menace of kidnappings in schools.
According to him, not only will the parents be traumatised by kidnappings, the distressing and disturbing experience to the children will have encountered in the hands of their abductors can never be erased from their minds.
“This can make some of them to be depressed, emotionally unstable with the fear of going back to the classroom and experiencing same, ringing in their minds every day.
“It is high time the government, national and international organisations come together to help this country overcome this menace because it is not good for our education sector.
“This is because, education is one of the major pillars for human capital development, if we do not address this menace on time, these children who drop out of school for reasons such as this, might end up becoming terrorists and armed robbers,’’ she observes.
But the minister of education, Malam Adamu Adamu, insists that the number of out-of-school children has reduced from 10.1million in 2019 to 6.95 million in 2020.
At an occasion in Abuja recently, he said that the reduction was through the federal government’s Better Education Service Delivery for All initiative.
The minister said that the initiative in 17 states had been responsible for an additional enrolment of 1,053,422 children.
He assured Nigerians said that the ministry would work with the National Association of Proprietors and School Owners of Nigeria to reduce the number of out-of-school children.
He also noted that the association had taken more than one million out-of-school children off the street, with each private school sponsoring five pupils.
“Under the initiative, the federal government secured a World Bank credit facility of 611 million dollars to support 17 states in strengthening the Universal Basic Education.
“The facility will also address the first pillar of the Ministerial Strategic Plan on out-of-school children.
“I can, however, tell you that through the initiative, we have reduced the figure of out-of-school children from 10.1 million since May 2020 to 6,946,328 million,” he said.
Adamu added that the adolescent girl initiative for learning and empowerment was also supported by the World Bank to deal with the challenges posed by adolescent girls who were out of school or had never been in school.
He said that a World Bank facility of 500 million dollars had been secured to ensure that these girls were taken off the street, trained and financially empowered to enable them live normal and quality lives.
Similarly, stakeholders in the education sector have solicited for technical assistance, advocacy and funding from various national and international development agencies to check kidnappings.
They note that the call for campaign against kidnappings and other factors limiting the children from attending school was fundamental to the progress of the nation.