The rising spate of insecurity across the country, particularly in the northern part of the country, appears to be taking a toll on education in the part of the country.
Apart from the negative impact on the economy, proper teaching and learning activities are being disrupted. In all of this, Nigeria is the greatest loser.
Perhaps, many parents in the Northern Nigeria who beat all odds to send their children to school have been left to rue their choice and rethink their decision due to the worsening insecurity situation in the region, which is being manifested in the increasing cases of abduction of school children in recent time.
The region has been volatile in the last one decade, with terror activities of Islamic sect, Boko Haram paralysing social and economic activities.
Reports indicate that over 768 students were abducted by bandits within the space of 78 days, forcing seven states in the North to shut down schools last week.
The seven states are Yobe, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto.
Although the affected state governments regretted the decision, they believe it was the honest thing to do in the circumstance, while they study developments.
It appears that the terrorists have perfected their criminal acts, hence their decision to turn to soft targets which the schools provided.
It began with the abduction in 2014 of 112 school girls from Chibok, Borno State. Some of the victims are still in captivity many years after. In 2018, over 110 students from kidnapped from their school in a sleepy village of Yobe State, called Dapchi. Up till this moment, one of the girls, Leah Sharibu has remained in captivity.
In December 2020, 400 students of Government Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, were kidnapped by bandits.
Recall also that 27 boys at GSS College, Kagara, Niger State were abducted by bandits on February 17, 2021, and 317 schoolgirls of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State suffered the same fate recently.
While some of the affected states are said to have only shut boarding schools, others shut all schools located in local government areas considered volatile and unsafe.
Stakeholders say it is not cheering news to the region and the sector, considering that schools had just reopened after several months of break occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.
The closure of schools in the North has put the academic dreams of many school children in jeopardy with thousands of senior secondary school students likely to miss this year’s West African Senior School Examination (WASSCE) and National Examination Council (NECO) examinations.
A retired school principal who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “As it is now, in the North, sending once children to school has become a huge risk. It is even worse sending girls to school. What may happen is that some parents, who in the first place were pressured before they allowed their girl-child go to school, may now find an excuse not to do so any more. The girls on their own may be so scared to go to school. Ultimately, Nigeria will bear the brunt as the educational gap between the north and south would continue to widen.”
Another expert said that the situation poses a huge challenge to education in the North and could compound the number of out of school children in Nigeria which UNICEF put at 10.5 million.
Out of the 10.5 million children, 60 percent are in the North, and most of them are girls; which are the main target of Boko Haram’s brutal hate campaign against western education.
“Is shutting schools the solution? It is just a panic measure; the government has abandoned their duty. Why allow the bandits to target the school children?
“It is the country that would suffer, because when you don’t take education seriously now, in twenty years’ time it would tell, when there would not be enough manpower, especially in the North,” Tope Adejumo, a professor and educationist, said.
According to Adejumo, “Government knows the solution to this problem and they know where to find these people kidnapping, they can’t tell me otherwise, that would be unserious and pretentious. Our children can’t be left to the whims and caprices of the bandits.”
It has become increasingly obvious that no meaningful learning can take place in schools with the current state of affairs which has made schools vulnerable to attacks.
Currently, education in the North has increasingly come under attack, with many children unable to attend school because of the fear of Boko Haram. Even when children enroll in schools, many do not complete the primary cycle.
A recent report by The Guardian shows that 30 percent of pupils drop out of primary school and only 54 percent transit to junior secondary schools within the last five years in the North. The report listed child labour, economic hardship, early marriage for girls, and Boko Haram insurgency as responsible for the problem.
Speaking on the way out, Public affairs commentator, Ahmed Oseni, said the solution lies in the government tackling the security crisis, adding that the government has encouraged the act of kidnapping by paying ransom.
“It is sad news for education in the North, the only solution is to deal with the security situation head on, because since you are giving ransom, they would continue to kidnap and abduct these school children. That place is not safe now for learning; it is a national embarrassment to the nation and the incumbent administration,” Oseni said.