Kidnapping and closure of schools: Surest bomb for the destruction of Nigeria (1)

IN recent times, news media across the country have been replete with stories of incessant kidnappings and closure of schools. From these reports, it is clear that students and teachers at all levels of education – primary, secondary and tertiary – are not immune from the danger posed byarmed invaders. Right from the widely-reported kidnapping of female students in Chibok communityby members of the Boko Haram terrorist group on 15th April 2014, it does not seem that the incidents of kidnappings are waning in the country.Due to this, many state governments have resorted to the closure of schools as the first and immediate response to kidnappings. Therefore, in this edition, I will consider some of the reported incidents of kidnapping and schools’ closure, and the effect on education and the country.

 

Some reported incidents of kidnapping and school closure

PM News edition of 11th March 2021 gave a caption as follows – Kidnapping: Niger Government Closes All Public Secondary Schools. It reported thus: ‘The Niger Ministry of Education has directed the closure of all public secondary schools for two weeks to enable the state government asses security threats and its impact on schools. The schools would be closed between Friday, March 12 and Friday, March 27, according to the state Commissioner of Education, Hajiya Hannatu Salihu. The commissioner noted that the closure will give relevant security agencies the time and opportunity to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of all public secondary schools in the state. The decision to close schools in the state came after an emergency consultative meeting with the leadership of the Association of the Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Association of Model Islamic Schools (AMIS), Executive Chairman, Niger State Universal Basic Education Board (NSUBEB), Heads of Education Agencies, Directors of the Ministry and other stakeholders of the sector. The closure of schools came in the light of recent abduction of students at the Government Science College, in Kagara community of the state few weeks ago.

On 17th March 2021, Withinnigeria News reported a caption – Kidnapping: Kaduna Closes All Schools in Kajuru LGA. It reported thus: “Kaduna has ordered the closure of all public and private schools in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state following continuous attacks on schools by bandits… Last Thursday, 39 students were abducted when gunmen invaded the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Afaka, Igabi LGA of the state.The students were later seen in a video clips receiving heavy beatings from their abductors, calling on government to pay the ransom to secure their release.”

Another report, Newdawnngr, gave the following caption on 27th February 2021 – Kidnapping/Abduction: Zamfara Govt Orders Closure of Boarding Schools. It reported that:  “The governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, on Friday, ordered the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools in the state following the abduction of 317 female students in Talata Mafara Local Government Area. The governor gave the directive in a special state broadcast on the abduction of the students at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, saying it is a trying moment for the state. “I wish to assure everyone that we are wholly committed to ensuring a speedy rescue of our dear schoolgirls and reuniting them with their families,” the governor said. He said police helicopters and other search and rescue operatives have been deployed to the area where the abducted girls are believed to be, adding that members of the public, and most especially the parents and guardians of the students, would be kept informed of developments in the efforts to rescue them. “As we are making efforts to strengthen security around our schools, I have directed the immediate closure of all boarding secondary schools across the state.”

 

The effect of kidnapping and school closure on education

As I earlier observed, there seems to be no reduction in the reports of kidnapping, so much that experts have predicted a rise in the number of out-of-school children due to incessant attacks on schools particularly in the North Central and Northwestern Nigeria. According to a report by Blueprint, an expert noted thus: “Never in history has the education industry in Nigeria being 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 rising cases of kidnapping incidents at schools in Nigeria show how vulnerable schools in northern Nigeria have become for bandits and kidnappers. It means that kidnappers, bandits, terrorists or whatever name they are called, have declared war on the education sector in the North and in extension on the future of our students and country. 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. 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.

In another interview, Blueprint also reported thus: “Everyone has the right to education.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. Following the incessant attacks on schools in the northern part of the country, certainly, the gains of the past in term of enrolment, retention and completion or graduation are being eroded. It will balloon the outrageous figure of out-of-school children in Nigeria. This is because no one wants to suffer the trauma of having his/her children abducted in the name of getting education. The number of street children/Almajiri will also increase. Child marriage will automatically rise with its nasty attendant implications like VVF and maternal mortality and morbidity among other issues. Unfortunately, with this trend, Nigeria cannot actualize the SDGs 2030 target.

Another expert noted thus:  “Given the pace at which bandits attack schools, government and private proprietors will be forced to shut down schools, intermittently, and then for much longer. Parents on the other hand will also be reluctant to send their wards and children to school; while teachers and other caregivers will be reluctant to report for work.The overall consequence will be empty schools, and gap in the education of children. Children will be left idle, and restless, since they cannot even be engaged with the livelihood practices of their parents due to insecurity. Poverty will increase, social cohesion within the homes and the communities will be stretched, and there will be increase in anti-social behaviour among children, with both children and their parents developing mental health issues. All of these will make recovery more tedious, and take longer even when security and safety are restored. Unfortunately, the impact will not just be on the North-west, or North-central; the impact will eventually be national and nationwide. People will tend to leave insecure places for relatively more secure places, and the inequality with respect to the conditions of living and existence of residents and the new influx of those seeking refuge from insecurity will potentially be destabilising for their new place of refuge as well.

To be continued…

AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN, OFR, CON, FNIALS, FCIArb., LLD.

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