■ 414 girls abducted in 5 years
TIMOTHY OLANREWAJU, Maiduguri
The streets of Dapchi, a serene town in northeast Yobe State were busy on a hot afternoon. The temperature was about 42 degree Celsius. Dozens of school-age children who ought to be in school were seen in groups playing.
It was the third day after Boko Haram released 105 out of 110 girls abducted in the only secondary school in the area.
An hour later, a couple of primary school pupils were seen walking home in groups down a dusty road at the centre of the town after closing from school. The fear of the unknown especially after the abduction of their sisters was palpable as they fled upon sighting the reporter approaching them. “They are afraid because of what we have experienced in recent times,” an elderly man who sat on a mat under a Neem tree said apparently aware of the reporter’s mission. The fewer number of pupils returning from a school that could accommodate nearly 700 students underscore current response of the people in the community to education of their children. No doubt, the event of February 19 has changed the thinking of Dapchi people about western education, Sunday Sun learnt.
Malam Adamu Yau, whose daughter Aisha reportedly died in the hands of Boko Haram a day after they were kidnapped in their school is unsure her remaining children would return to school. The pain the abduction unleashed on his family and the tragedy that followed-the loss of her promising daughter, were enough reasons for his dilemma over the education of his five other children.
“It is a decision that I may take after recovering from this tragedy of my daughter’s loss,” he told Sunday Sun at Jumbam, a small community located about 2 kilometers to Dapchi.
For Gashuama Adamu, father of 13 years old Aisha, a JSS 1 student, returning his daughters to school is what he is not considering. “I won’t send my daughters to school especially if this thing (abduction) continues,” he told the reporter. “I am tired of the situation, I will prefer Islamiyya,” he added.
The above explained why many children were seen playing around or girls hawking while they ought to be in the school.
Boko Haram shaking the NE future
Boko Haram’s attack on education is a direct target on the future of the northeast, says Bulama Kagu, professor of education and former Dean School of Post Graduate Studies, University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID). He said education was the biggest casualty of the eight years of Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast. He said the insurgents created bad perception in the minds of the rural folks, making many to dislike western education in an area reputed to be educationally backward. “ Borno and Yobe states are the worst affected as many parents won’t want to send their female children to school,” he disclosed. He said the abduction of schoolgirls by Boko Haram has further worsened the poor enrolment of girl child in schools. “Before, there was imbalance in the enrolment of boys and girls. A number of factors were responsible and these include cultural and economic factors but the continuous abduction of children in school worsens the situation,” he said.
Why Boko Haram adopts abduction strategy
Boko Haram which labeled western education as a sin, aims at establishing caliphate in northeast Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states with poor enrolment figure. The insurgents embarked on large scale abduction of students and attacks on schools since 2013 to drive its weird anti-education doctrine in the minds of people, a military source and expert in terrorism ideology told Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity. Boko Haram leverage on high level of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, anger and dysfunction social system to recruit many youths into its fold and abduction became a prevalent tactics for two purposes of carrying out attacks and thwarting efforts to boost education in the area, the 2016 UN report also stated.
From January 2013 to December 2016, Boko Haram has abducted a total of 836 children in 567 incidents, a 2016 United Nations Secretary General’s report titled “Nigeria-First Report on Children and Armed Conflict, Jan 2013-Dec 2016.” The report shows that 304 girls and 532 boys were abducted within the period. These also included the 276 schoolgirls at Chibok on April 14, 2014.
“Children continue to bear the brunt of the crisis, being abducted, killed, used as suicide bombers, raped, abused, denied access to education and separated from their families. Despite our efforts, one in every two children in the northeast does not attend school. This is not acceptable, we must do more.” UNICEF Nigeria Chief of Field Office for Borno, Geoffrey Ijumba stated.
The kidnap of 110 girls at Dapchi now brings the estimated figure of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram to 414.
1.2 million Children out of school
Ijumba said an estimated 1.2 million children are out of school in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. This figure, he said represented almost half of the total number of children who are out of school in Nigeria. But Borno alone has the highest figure of about 700, 000 out of school children, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Since 2009, over 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 have been displaced in the northeast. Almost 1,400 schools have been destroyed with the majority unable to open because of extensive damage or because they are in areas that remain hard to access, UNICEF said. This development is depriving millions of school children access to quality education. Though UNICEF is collaborating with Borno State Government to provide formal education by establishing temporary learning centres, providing learning materials and rehabilitating classrooms through the UN Save School Initiative, the efforts appear to be a drop in the ocean as the enrolment of children still remains poor. Many of the schools in Borno especially in the volatile northern and central parts are still shut down.
Parents withdrew daughters from boarding schools
Sunday Sun gathered that many parents withdrew their daughters from boarding after the Chibok abduction fearing similar fate may befall their children. Some schools have also been relocated to safer area especially schools in New Marte, Abadam, Kala-Balge and Gamboru/Ngala local government. Borno State Commissioner of Education, Hon Inuwa Kubo said the recent abduction of girls at Dapchi would not discourage parents in Borno from sending their children to school. He also said the deployment of policemen to schools in the state by the Inspector General of Police (IG) will boost the confidence of the students and their parents. Kubo expressed hope that the security measures will be sustained.
“As far as we are concerned, we only hope it will be sustained. We are feeling there will be peace very soon. We are hoping the security will ease out and police will go back to other duties while students learn in a peaceful environment,” he told Sunday Sun.
Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima believes the insurgency has taken the education sector in the state 20 years backward. Shettima however said his government would continue to rebuild schools destroyed by the terrorists, provide opportunities for quality education and training outside the state including training of 50 girls in Medicine at a university in Sudan. How far these efforts can address the shortage in the education sector of the state lies in the womb of time.