By Michael Onyema Edeh
The education sector in Nigeria has been confronted with many challenges, including labour strikes, poor funding, decay in infrastructure, and the recent kidnapping cases.
Thus, it is fast becoming extremely difficult for students in Nigeria to attain their educational dreams. This may not be unconnected with the long decay in the education system which has deprived many the opportunities to acquire formal education.
One of the growing threats in the Nigerian education system is the attacks on schools, and the abduction of students by kidnappers. This is coming at a time when the world education systems are trying to recover from Corona virus related disruptions which has kept millions of students out of school. Many schools in Nigeria are now faced with the menace of kidnapping.
Recent events have shown that schools are now major targets of kidnappers who are fond of abducting students and teachers for ransoms. The growing rate of attacks targeted at schools and the number of kidnapping cases in schools have become a source of concern to many stakeholders in the Nigerian education sector. While many kidnapped students are still missing from the Chibok and Dapchi abductions, recent events show that there is a surge in kidnapping cases in schools in Nigeria.
For instances, records show that between April 14, 2014 to February 26, 2021, more than one thousand students have been kidnapped from their schools. According to The Cable, the breakdown of the number of abducted students in the last seven years indicates that 276 were kidnapped at Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State in April, 2014; 113 at Government Girls Secondary and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State on February 19, 2018; 344 at Government Science Secondary School, Kankaara, Kastina State on December 11, 2020; 80 at Islamiyya Schools, Muhuta Town, Kastina State on December 20, 2020; 27 at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State on February 17, 2021, and the latest school kidnapping case as at February 26, 2021 occurred in Zamfara State, of which it was largely reported that about 317 students were kidnapped from Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State.
The number could be larger because some of the school kidnapping cases may not have attracted media attention like the aforementioned cases. The rising cases of kidnapping incidents at schools in Nigeria show how vulnerable our schools have become for attackers and kidnappers. It means that kidnappers, bandits, terrorist or whatever name they are called have declared war on the education industry in Nigeria and in extension on the future of our students and country. Never in history has the education industry in Nigeria been so threatened by insecurity like its current state.
The attacks on schools often have adverse effects not only on students, educators, parents and educational institutions, but also on the government and the society at large. The attackers or abductors of school children often do so not only for the purpose of collecting ransom, but also to intimidate and deny young people the access to western education or civilization. School abductions are dangerous, condemnable and barbaric not only because it truncates student’s Right to education, but could also lead to untimely death of innocent school children who committed no sin other than just trying to be educated.
When students are kidnapped, they risk being traumatized for life, even after their rescue. It affects their interests in education and academic performances and destroys their life dreams. For instances, some of the Kidnapped victims never get to return, some are married off prematurely, some exposed to child labour, while many others, particularly the girls are often exposed to different forms of sexual abuses. If the current trends of kidnappings are allowed to continue, it would cause more severe damages to the country and the future of our young people, and the entire country could be in jeopardy.
Therefore, there is the need for security agencies and indeed authorities at all levels of government to take proactive steps to address the rising insecurity in our schools and country. Governments must show strength and rise up to her responsibilities to protect our schools, lives, and properties. Education must not be allowed to be silenced by terrorists or kidnappers. School children and indeed educational institutions deserve to be protected from becoming soft targets for kidnappers, bandits or terrorists. Schools must not be allowed to be turned into battle grounds where people go to display their grievances, collect baits for ransom or show their kidnapping strengths.
Failure to protect the schools is a failure to the present and future generation. All hands have to be on deck to help secure our schools and in extension the future of our youths and children. No student deserves to be kidnapped anywhere. Education remains a critical instrument that can be used to defeat poverty and terrorism. The more the schools are secured and open, the more young people will be empowered to resist extremisms, and the lesser the available recruits for terrorism or kidnappers. If Nigeria must win the war against terrorism or kidnappings, schools have to be better protected and funded to enhance their capacity to help provide the much needed supports to reduce ignorance, extremism and poverty, all of which are stimuli for kidnapping and many other forms of terrorism.
Thus, government at all levels; communities and educational institutions have to do more to protect the schools from all forms of attacks, particularly from the menace of kidnappings. Campus security should be taken seriously by schools in line with modern day security realities. Educational institutions should not wait until they are targeted before they put preventive measures in place to protect their campuses, hostels, students, teachers and infrastructures.
There has to be increased security awareness among all stakeholders in education and synergy among schools and security agencies, and among schools and their host communities in order to enhance security of schools. More proactive steps have to be taken to secure schools from bandit or terrorists attacks and to stop the kidnapping of students. This is because if the emerging trend of kidnappings, especially students’ abductions are allowed to continue, it will not only consume our education sector, but also the future of our country. Our children and teachers deserve to learn and teach under a peaceful atmosphere devoid of any form of fear or intimidation either by kidnappers, bandits or terrorists.
Let us secure the future of our children and nation by playing our required individual and collective roles to help secure our schools from all forms of attacks or kidnappings. Insecurity should not be allowed to continue in our country, and school abduction must not be allowed to become a thriving enterprise for kidnappers or other selfish individuals.
Michael Onyema Edeh is the Head of Department, Mathematics and Computer Science at the Coal City University, Enugu, Nigeria