An exclusive report published by this newspaper recently to the effect that in about three months, bandits have serially attacked not less than five schools in both the North-west and North-central states of Nigeria, paints a gloomy picture for education not just in these geo-political zones but also in the entire North in particular and the country in general.
The report named the affected states as Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states in the North-west, while only Niger state was hard hit by the bandits’ activities in the north central. The latest of such attacks was on LEA Primary School, Rema, Birnin Gwari local government area of Kaduna state Monday, during which three teachers were abducted while no pupil was captured.
Prior to the primary school attack in Kaduna state, the gunmen had stormed the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, also in the state, and kidnapped 39 students, 23 males and 16 males, all of whom are still in captivity as at the time of this report.
However, their attempt to kidnap students of Government Science Secondary School in Ikara, also in the state Sunday, was foiled by the combined efforts of troops and security volunteers, who showed superior firepower during the gun duel with the hoodlums.
Apart from these, the criminals also hit the staff quarters of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and abducted a senior staff and members of his family. They however failed in their renewed bid when they came for another attack Sunday, with troops inflicting on them varied degrees of injuries.
In Zamfara state, the criminals swooped on Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata Marafa local government area, and made away with 279 students who were released few days later. On February 17, in Niger state, the criminals forced their way into Government Science School, Kagara, killed one student and abducted 27 others, including some teachers and their family members. They were released about a week after, following an intervention by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi who mediated between the state government and the kidnappers.
In Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, the bandits hit Government Science Secondary Kankara, and abducted 344 students December 11, 2020. The incident happened few hours after President Buhari arrived Daura on a one-week break. The students were released after six days in captivity. On the whole, 692 students and teachers, including three teachers in Birnin Gwari attack Monday, were kidnapped under the three-month period with 42 still in captivity.
On the Birnin Gwari attack Monday, Kaduna state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said two pupils were initially missing following the ensuing melee, but were later found. He said military forces are trailing the bandits to ensure the release of the teachers.
The Blueprint report, which was quite extensive and elaborate, sought the opinions of some experts and civil society organisations on the ominous signal from the incessant attacks on schools in the North. An educationist and head, Department of Chemistry Education, Kogi State University, Dr Sarah Jumai Shaibu, said the rising cases of attacks could increase the number of out-of-school children in the region.
“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.”
The Social Mobilisation Manager, ActionAid Nigeria, Mr Adewale Adeduntan, expressed concern over the incessant kidnap of students in the north, saying the menace has made nonsense of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that: “Everyone has the right to education.”
He said: “It is unfortunate that the fragility in the north is derailing education which is fundamental to the socio-economic growth and development of the region and its ability to compete in the global economy. Adeduntan described the right to education as a basic human right legally guaranteed for all without any discrimination to status whether children, youth or adults.
Also, the Program Manager of Yiaga Africa, Mr Paul James, raised the alarm that the incessant attacks on innocent students continually exposed government’s inability to protect lives and properties. He said the latest attack in Kaduna state is even more worrisome despite the presence of all security formations in Kaduna state.
It is pathetic that while the North is still battling with its over 10.5 million out-of-school children (about 60 per cent of the 13 million in the country), the gory situation is being exacerbated by the rising nefarious activities of Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, and wanton kidnappings targeted mainly at schools.
Considering the fact that education is the bedrock of any society, we urge the government at all levels to device more ingenious methodology and strategies at dealing with the perilous twist in the modus operandi of criminal elements to frustrate the efforts of government and donor agencies to improve the low level of education in the North, which is rated as the worst globally. The North, nay Nigeria, cannot afford further decline in its education, if it is genuinely desirous of being listed on the global index of scientific and technological advancement.