The United Nations (UN) has decried the incessant abduction of school children in Nigeria and described it as a great threat to the future of the country. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, who spoke at an event to mark the 2021 International Day to Protect Education from Attack, which is marked annually on September 9, urged the Federal Government to do more to protect students.
According to Kallon, “whenever teaching and learning is disrupted, the impact on human capital development is enormous as the recovery period is always tortuous and longer than the length of the initial disruption.”
We condemn the attacks on schools and subsequent abduction of students in some schools in some northern states. There is no doubt that such attacks will jeopardise the future of children’s education. Already, some parents have withdrawn their children from the affected schools. Everything must be done by the government to protect school children. An attack on any school is invariably an attack on the future of the country because children are the leaders of tomorrow. Unfortunately, the attacks which were initially in troubled zones are now spreading rapidly to other peaceful areas.
As the UN official rightly observed, an attack on education is an attack on the collective future of Nigeria. Let the government show much commitment and urgency to reverse this ugly trend. With the forceful withdrawal of students from schools due to fear, the number of the nation’s out-of-school children now put at over 13 million, is bound to increase. Available statistics show that about 1.3 million children were affected by the attacks and abductions between September 2020 and June/July 2021.
In the North East region, not less than 600,000 children are out of school and more than 1.1million others need support to stay in school. About 10 abductions were recorded in the past 12 months in which 1,436 students were taken hostage, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Nigeria. In all of this, killer herdsmen were alleged to be responsible for the abductions and disruption of school activities in nine states. Their targets, according to reports, include preschoolers to tertiary students.
We deplore the situation and urge the government to take decisive steps to check the attacks on schools. Currently, more than 200 students are still being held captive and 16 of them are said to have died. We commend the on-going military operations in Zamfara State against the bandits. The operations against the bandits and other criminal elements should be intensified, while those apprehended must be made to face the full wrath of the law. The abductors should not be treated with kid gloves or be granted amnesty as being touted in some quarters. For the umpteenth time, we urge the Federal Government to decentralise the policing system and introduce many layers of policing for more efficient and effective policing in the country as practised in the United States (US) and other federal systems. We say this because decentralised policing is the norm in many federations. The current centralised policing system is not working and cannot work in Nigeria.
The UN Safe School initiative should be expanded and integrated to make schools safe in the country. Let the schools be fenced and covered with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras and alarm system to ensure improved safety. With the reopening of schools, we implore the governors in the North West and North Central regions to consider extra measures to check incessant abduction of school children. We think that the freed school children, who revealed that they were warned not to go back to school or they would have themselves to blame, should be debriefed. They may also require the services of doctors and psychologists to overcome the attendant shock and fear.
It is time for the government to map out comprehensive measures to address hunger, poverty, and unemployment, considered the major triggers of insecurity in the country. Although the task of resolving the rising insecurity is daunting, it is never insurmountable. Therefore, we urge the government to explore other strategies to overcome the nation’s security challenges.