By Adesina Wahab
ON the night of April 14-15, 2014, final year secondary school girls, said to be 276 in number, were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents at the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State. The girls were preparing for their West African Senior Secondary School Examination paper in Physics. Prior to the incident, the security situation in the area had deteriorated to the point that many schools were shut down and students from different schools were taken to Chibok to write their examinations. Out of the figure of 276 kidnapped students, some escaped and some were freed at different points in time, leaving 112 girls still missing.
The development heralded an ugly development in the education sector in the country. It has never happened before. As if taking a cue from the Chibok incident, few years later, another group of students, also girls, were abducted in Dapchi, Yobe State.
All of these happening in a region where Western education has suffered relegation to the background.
However, the recent kidnapping of over 300 students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State raised serious concern for a number of reasons. Chief among which is the fact that it happened in the state of President Muhammadu Buhari and while he was there on a private visit. Also, the claim that the kidnappers took away their victims in motorbikes also was confounding.
When the Chibok event happened, it was less than a year to the 2015 general elections and some were quick to read political undertone to it. The Kankara incident did not happen close to any general election. However, political undertone was still insinuated. But the question is if politics was involved in all the incidents, must innocent students become pawns in the hands of politicians?
The implications – criminal
A lawyer, Tolu Ayodele, noted that the criminal aspect of the matter should not be overlooked. “Let us assume that the Kankara boys were released by the bandits without any ransom being paid, that still does not make them saints, they are criminals and they perpetrated criminal act by forcibly taking away the students. They also committed a crime by keeping them for about a week against their wish in an unknown place.
“So, whether they released the boy without collecting a Kobo or not is immaterial and does not make them guiltless. Also, if the whole thing was a set up or arranged event, those who arranged it and those they arranged with are criminals too. If ranson was paid for the students to regain their freedom, then the bandits have successfully blackmailed the government.
“One thing with blackmailers is that they won’t stop. A blackmailer will continue in that his criminal trade. Therefore, whatever it is, justice must be allowed to prevail. This is apart from the terrible negative effects such incidents would have on the education sector,” he said.
Effects on education
To say abduction of students for whatever reason will harm education is saying the obvious, even if it is happening in a place where the people’s love and thirst for education are deep. No parent or guardian would want his child or ward get traumatised needlessly. Commenting on the development, the National General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Dr Mike Ene, said,” Before the advent of Boko Haram, herders, bandits and others, the North had been backward in terms of educational development. We have had a running battle over girl child education. We are now getting over that and this one is now cropping up.
“Before this time, the figure of out-of-school children was between 10.5 to 13 million and the bulk is in that region, now what do we expect? Remember that Boko Haram said it is opposed to Western education. The negative effects of the current trend would be so enormous. When some people have learnt a new strategy to perpetrate evil, the government should up its game and find means to outsmart them.”
He called on the state and local government authorities across the country to engage local vigilantes in securing our schools.
The NUT scribe noted that the current siege by hoodlums to schools could serve as an alibi for some parents not to send their wards to school and the consequences would be on the society at large in the end.
On his part, the National President of the National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Mr Haruna Danjuma, said, “The intention of the perpetrators is to discourage people from sending their children to school and even the children not wanting to go to school. Those poor boys would have been seriously traumatised. Some may not want to go back to school again. And this is at a time the number of out-of-school children is increasing rapidly.
“Parents are under economic pressures, it is like many are only trying to keep their wards in school and this is happening. The consequences of an illiterate society are too heavy to bear and it would be on us all,” he noted.
The way forward
The NUT and NAPTAN want all schools, whether private or public to be fenced. “Agile men should also be employed as security guards in schools. A situation where you have old men serving as gate men and who also double as security men is no longer tenable.
“Also, everybody should see the issue of security of our schools as our duty. When the people in the community see strange faces, they should inform the relevant agencies. The children we want to protect are our children too,” Danjuma said.
He charged the government to live up to its responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens wherever they are. He noted that with some people still not convinced about the gains of formal education, especially in the northern part of the country, abducting and kidnapping their wards and children would further dampen their morale.
The NUT and NAPTAN charged the government not to allow a repeat of such incident in any part of the country, saying human life is sacred and must not be toyed with.