Expert, CSOs predict rise in number of out-of-school children as Bandits hit 5 schools in N/west, N/central

Some of the freed schoolboys being carried to their destination

 

In about three months, bandits have serially attacked not less than five schools in both the North-west and North-central states of Nigeria, Blueprint can authoritatively report.

The affected states are 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 of Kaduna state Monday, during which three teachers were abducted while no pupil was captured.  

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Previous attacks

 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.  

And 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 later released few days later.

And in Niger state, precisely February 17, the criminally minded persons forced their way into Government Science School, Kagara, killed one student and made away with some 27 others, including some teachers and their family members.

They were however released about a week after, following an intervention by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi who mediated between the state government and the kidnappers.

Similarly, 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 Muhammadu Buhari arrived Daura on a one-week break.

The students were however lucky to have been 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.

Those in captivity, as at the time of this report, were  the  39 students of the forestry college as well as the three primary school teachers abducted Monday.      

Birnin Gwari attack

Addressing journalists 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. 

 “Following the attack by armed bandits at around 8:50am today Monday, 15th March, 2021 at Rema Primary School, Magajin Gari Ward 2, of Birnin Gwari local government area, and the first update given by the Kaduna state government which stated that reports were being received of a kidnapping at the said primary school. 

 “The state government has compiled and analysed all the security reports and can confirm that there was indeed an invasion of the said school. The Government can confirm that three teachers, Rabiu Salisu, Umar Hassan, and Bala Adamu have been kidnapped. 

 “Pupils, who had just arrived the school to begin the day’s activities, took to their heels in the course of the commotion, as the bandits invaded the premises on motorcycles. This led to two pupils going missing, identified as Ahmad Halilu and Kabiru Yahaya. 

“However, we are happy to inform you that the two missing pupils have been found. We can also confirm that no single pupil was kidnapped from the school. Other than the three teachers previously mentioned, no staff or pupil of the school is missing following the attack.

 “Security reports have also revealed that the bandits rustled several cattle and went away with five motorcycles and other valuables. The military and other security agencies in the Birnin Gwari area are in hot pursuit of the bandits to ensure that the three kidnapped persons are rescued safely,” Aruwan said. 

 The commissioner further said: “Troops of the Nigerian Army on patrol in Faka area of Chikun local government, rescued a young boy wandering in the Faka Forest. The boy, identified as Adewale Rasaq, was kidnapped over a week ago in the Kudenden area of Chikun local government, and escaped from his captors while his parents were negotiating the payment of a ransom of about N15 million to the bandits. 

 “Furthermore, troops of the Nigerian Army while on aggressive fighting patrol in a forest around Kachia and Kauru Local Government Areas found a girl, Fatima Lawal, who also escaped from bandits.

“According to her statement, she was kidnapped about three weeks ago at Randa village, in Kadage area of Kauru local government.  These two persons will be handed over to their families through the Chairmen of Chikun and Kauru Local Government Areas respectively.

 “The Kaduna state government is sustaining collaborative efforts towards tracking down the criminals and retrieving their hostages. The Governor is actively engaging critical stakeholders towards the speedy achievement of this objective. Citizens are encouraged to assist the efforts of the government by volunteering useful information to the Kaduna state security operations room, on 09034000060 and 08170189999.”

Buhari

Meanwhile, President Buhari was recently reported to have told  state governors to review “their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles,” warning that the policy “could backfire with potentially disastrous consequences.”

Experts, CSOs warn

Warning of the dire consequences the attacks posed to education in the northern region Monday, 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.

In an interview with Blueprint, Shaibu said:  “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,” said the expert.

Also, 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.

“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,” he said.

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. 

James expressed concern that “this is a major cause of concern as this may lead to further decline in the level of education especially in the north. It is quite unfortunate that parents may start to consider withdrawing their wards from schools for their own safety. 

 “The despicable attacks on schools have persisted despite the launching of safe school Initiative meant to ensure safety of schools for students. 

“Nigerians will begin to question the impact of the Safe School Initiative launched in 2019 to ensure schools are safe for students.  A lot of money was invested into this scheme but it seems the initiative is not achieving the desired results.” 

He called on the federal government to revisit the Safe Schools Initiative and identify effective strategies to protect the schools. 

 “The federal government must show more grit and live up to its major responsibility of protecting lives and properties of Nigerians. 

“They must devise strategy to deal with these bandits and terrorists decisively to forestall further attacks. Our schools must be protected and students and their teachers must feel secured,” James further added.

Expressing similar view, Director Praxis Centre; Convener Take Back Nigeria Movement and Co-convener Say No Campaign, Mr Jaye Gaskia, said the implication on education, on the all-round development of children and youth, as well as on the economy and human capital development cannot be over emphasised. 

He said giving 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.

“The solution must include a national response, mobilising all elements of national power, and relying on citizens to checkmate the criminals and reverse the slide into the abyss,” he said. 

Also, Executive Director YES Project Oche Precious Edeh said Nigeria’s education sector is undoubtedly under attack, particularly in the North-west and North-central. 

He said “students and teachers are no longer free to learn or teach without looking over their shoulders to see if bandits are coming.

“Under this kind of circumstances, students can’t learn well and teachers can’t teach well. It implies therefore that the future of our children and indeed education in this region is at risk. 

“Government must rise up to the situation and defend our children, our teachers and our people. It’s difficult enough sending children to school in this region and paying the fees; It shouldn’t be more difficult because of insecurity. Enough is enough.”

Also, Executive Director Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre/ Convener Say No Campaign Nigeria, Ezenwa Nwagwu, lamented that criminals were sharing notes around the country with the kidnap of innocent children. 

He said, for a part of the country battling the scourge of unprecedented number of out-of- school children to now be confronted with unabating kidnapping of those in school, is a fulfilment of the dream of Boko Haram.” 

UNI Agric Markurdi
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