BY LAJU ARENYEKA
The June 3, Dana crash seems to reopen old wounds for parents, teachers and other stakeholders in the education sector. The over 170 people left dead in the wake of the crash include five members of the National Universities Commission, a 300 level student of Bowen University, two secondary school students among others.
The crash has no doubt sent many on a sad journey down memory lane. Until June 3, except in the hearts of those closest to the 108 people — 60 of them children in their uniforms- who met their tragic end in the Sosoliso crash on December 10, 2005, the incident seemed to have taken a seven-year old seat in old newspapers, and barely-recently-visited internet links.
Until that black Sunday, many seemed to have forgotten that barely three months ago, 42 female students were attacked by armed gunmen on the way from their secondary school in Enugu to their homes in Lagos. Unconfirmed reports say that some were raped.
Only last month, two females in a bus conveying passengers from Lagos to Abuja were raped by armed robbers who attacked their bus at Sagamu area of Ogun State. Reports have it that one of the rape victims was of school age, barely 18. Another passenger on board the bus was a final year pupil of the Nigeria Military School, Kaduna State.
A devastating addition to campus cults, hostel bullying and attacks on corps members in some states, the scope of threats to the young citizens of our nation’s citadels of learning has widened to include death traps on the road and in the air as they travel to and from school.
With stringent rules concerning movement and identical time tables that are germane to secondary schools with boarding facilities, there is no doubt that secondary school students who study in other states are at the greatest risk in this regard. Does this therefore mean that children should only be allowed to attend secondary schools in the states where they reside? Many who spoke to Vanguard Learning do not think so.
One of such, Elizabeth Abutu said: “If not for the crisis and the security situation in Nigeria, it should be an exciting thing to expose our children to study in other states, to learn other cultures because education really isn’t just about schooling but exposure. Studying in other states also helps eradicate bias.”
Another parent whose three grown children had their secondary school education far away from home supported Abutu’s stance by saying “studying outside the state where they live is an opportunity for them to be able to make decisions for themselves as they meet people from different parts of the nation and the world. My three girls went to unity schools, so I can say that it really helps for social integration.”
Chinyere Okwebinna enthused that it doesn’t necessarily depend on whether the children are studying far away or not. “What will happen will happen,” she said “after all, there are a larger number of people who go to school far from home and have been protected from accidents and attacks.”
Another mother, who simply referred to herself as Mary said: “I won’t want my child to school outside the state. It is very risky, and I won’t be at peace if I was in such a situation. I guess some parents do it because they want their children to experience new environments so that they can adapt anywhere.”
Mary blazed the trail in providing solutions to the security situation for such students when she suggested that such vehicles transporting children should have adequate security and should be well maintained. An educationist and mother said that in addition to proper maintenance, and the presence of security personnel, parents should also pray for their children because according to her, “accidents and other mishaps are things that you cannot predict.”
Sunday Michael, a concerned parent, pointed out that if children cannot even be protected, then no one is safe in this country. “I think the government has to do more, and we as citizens have to be very alert,” he added.