X-raying The Unsafe School's Environment In Northern Nigeria.

Continuous bombardments of our minds by the Nigeria's media space with news of School's Children's abduction in Northern Nigeria as well as Government's neglect is capable of crippling the education sector in the North.

Since the abduction of school girls in Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram, fear has taken a toll on the minds of many Nigerians. Curiously, the manner, in which the terror group stormed, the school and successfully made away with the girls, left many with more questions than answers. Recall that, 276 Chibok girls on April 14, 8 years ago, were forcefully taken captive from the comfort of Government Girls Secondary School Chibok, Borno State by the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group.

Expectedly, all news channels from both the new and mainstream media outlets were awash with the news of this dastardly act. Human Rights groups, Government security agencies, Civil Society groups, religious leaders as well as political leadership all rose in condemnation. Indeed, Nigerians from all walks of life stood still in shock. The intelligence community and even those with "magical" powers found it difficult to believe the story of how over 200 students will disappear into thin air without a trace. While the incident generated heated debates across the nation in so many circles including Nigeria's media space, with accusations and counter-accusations. Groups like the Bring Back Our Girls campaign that kept the previous government not only on its toes but also on its fingers were birthed.

8 years down the line, today, many similar occurrences have continued to make news headlines daily. Nigerians have lost count of the number of schools where gunmen have stormed and abducted students for ransom since the Chibok episode. Instructively, most Nigerians have also lost interest in reports of student abduction which has become a phenomenon in recent times. According to a rights activist, Nuhu Ibrahim, reports of students’ abduction no longer make headlines simply because it seems the trend has become a very lucrative business in the country. and unscrupulous elements in the nation are feeding fat on the trend. This is the most worrisome dimension, the trend has assumed.

Failure of the government to adequately rise to the occasion and check the ugly trend has rather compounded the issues while fear continues to grip the average Nigerian who is helpless in his defense of these very coordinated attacks on schools, especially in northern Nigeria.

A quick rundown of schools attached similarly to the Chibok Girl's School only beats the imagination of the Nigerian public. For instance, one is not sure if Nigerians know about the last set of students abducted recently with their teachers in Zamfara, a north-western Nigeria state.? The report of the incident was grossly underreported in the media from observations. Was it that the news couldn’t make headlines in the national dailies for whatever reasons or what could have informed the grossly inadequate reportage of the incident? Going with the timeline of students’ abduction according to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics, from December 2021 to date, students were abducted in not less than 12 schools in Northern Nigeria. 

On December 11, 2020, not less than 300 kankara students were abducted, On December 20, 2020, about 80 students were kidnapped in an Islamic school in Mahuta, Katsina, and on February 17, 2021, about 27 students were abducted in a Government Science College, Kagara in Niger state. Also, on February 26, 2021 bandits kidnapped 317 female students in GSSS Jangebe, Zamfara state, March 12, 2021, bandits kidnapped 27 students in Federal College of Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State; an institution that is not far from the Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna. April 21, 2021, about 17 students of Greenfield University were kidnapped in Kaduna and the parents of the children had to raise NGN 180m to pay the ransom alongside motorcycles, May 30, 2021, about 169 pupils were kidnapped at Salihu Tanko Islamic School, Tegina, Niger State and millions of naira were paid but the abductors refused to release them, June 11, 2021, about 8 students and some lecturers were taken from Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria, Kaduna State, and also June 17, 2021, about 80 children and five teachers at the Federal Government College Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State were taken for ransom.

The report that broke the camel’s back is the recent attack, raiding, killing, and abduction of soldiers from Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna. The raid on the Nigeria Defence Academy- the highest-ranking security formation in the nation means so much to the discerning mind; If Kaduna, a state which has the highest number of security training institutions in the country could fall to this senseless menace of school attacks and kidnapping and abductions, it simply means that no school in the country is not vulnerable and could be raided by the terrorists. Most worrisome is the fact that; it has become undoubtedly true that an increase in student kidnapping has posed a double assault on education in Northern Nigeria. 

A few months ago, many schools in Northern Nigeria had to shut down all activities of their institutions for fear of being raided and students abducted. In the wake of these rampant and rapid student abductions in the region, no state has not been hit. Adamawa state received in shock, their 'baptism' of the menace. At the height of the terrorist’s sway in Zamfara, the Headmaster of a primary school in Birnin Magaji was confronted by an armed man who asked him to close lessons for the day as they intended to take a rest in the classrooms. What audacity! From informed sources, not less than 1,000 students have been abducted from schools in Northern Nigeria since December 2020. The same report claimed that there is a net attendance rate of just 53% in primary schools in northern Nigeria despite making education at that level to be free and compulsory. Going on these statistics, 47% of children in northern Nigeria are out of school and this in recent times is credited to an upsurge in insecurity.

According to Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), more than 10,000 schools have been reportedly closed in at least seven Northern states over the fear of attack and abduction of pupils and members of staff. The states include Sokoto, Zamafara, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Yobe, and now Adamawa. It is now obvious that the safe school initiative which was launched after the Chibok girls were abducted to bolster security in schools in North-eastern Nigeria by building fences around them has failed woefully. Terrorists are running their affairs at will in the region as if the initiative is meant to boost terrorist activities. Sending children to school by parents in Northern Nigeria is like signing a death warrant for them. Most parents prefer to keep their wards at home than send them to school in fear of abduction for ransom and unjustified killing by armed men.

With the impression created to the other regions about insecurity in Northern Nigeria, no parent from the other part of the country will love to send their wards to school in the north, and by extension, the region has created itself a bad name before other regions. If measures are not put in place, education in the north will plummet to an all-time low. The Number of school dropouts will continue to increase on daily basis and that will increase the number of street children that will later become a national liability. For attacks on schools in Nigeria's North to come to an end, Federal Government has a serious role to play. The federal government is expected to make it a duty to allocate security men to schools which will go a long way in curtailing the menace. Also, school owners should desist from building schools in the outskirts of towns so as not to make the school vulnerable to easy attacks by gunmen. 

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