REMINISCING on a call by Anambra State Governor’s wife, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano for compulsory education to all Nigerian children and particularly, every onye Anambra during her local government tours across the state sometimes last year, fresh concerns grip the mind over possibility of realising this dream at a time schools are turning out hot targets for kidnapping and abduction of both pupils and teachers.
For Mrs Obiano and her liberal fellows, the child’s education is not only beneficial to the child alone but to society. “By giving educational opportunities to young children, both parents and guardians are not only building brighter future for the young ones but even the society stands to benefit at the long run.” The Anambra State first lady strongly believes.
Perhaps, Mrs Obiano is not alone in this view as voices across the world and the United Nations, through UNICEF had continually echoed the urgent need to build a stronger future society with education, especially child education being the bedrock of actualising the dream.
Nigeria has not lagged behind in the pursuit of this goal in the past; the clear evidence being the raising of successful men and women in the society through her education programs. The likes of Nobel Lauret, Prof Wole Shoyinka, literary icon, the late Professor Chinua Achebe, media marvel, the late Prince Tony Momoh to mention but a few make the lists of astounding achievers in the society from the refinement furnace of Nigeria’s educational system. Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is another stellar product of the system, who got to the highest office in the country with all intellectual polishing from the education system in the land.
Arguably, the system has nurtured world class academia, tink tanks, intellectual geniuses in different fields; above all, societal leaders and drivers of issues at both national and international levels.
But a decade down the line, the education system through vibrant policies was able to take-in quite substantial number of citizens into the formal system of knowledge and capacity but to Nigeria’ s society. “By giving educational opportunities to young children, both parents and guardians are not only building brighter future for their young ones but even the society stands to benefit at the long run.” The Anambra state first lady strongly believes.
Arguably, the system has nurtured world class academia, tink tanks, intellectual genuses in different feilds, above all, societal leaders and driver’s of issues at both national and international levels.
No doubt, expectations of taking Nigeria notches higher from this sector got to crescendo, especially as the global society shifts from analogue system to digital era with artificial intelligence providing the step- up base.
Ironically, the unimaginable began to evolve in the system with cases of pupils getting kidnapped from their schools’ premises. The growing fear becomes, ” what hope lies for Nigeria’ s future in general and the Nigerian child in particular with the education system sliding into the doldrums due to insecurity in the country?
In 2014, when the incidence of school pupils abduction came into public domain, 276 pupils ( all girls) from Government Girls College in Chibok town, Borno State, were crudely taken to the surprise of many, by elements later branded bandits by the Nigerian authorities. Not few schools of thought mistook the development to be a passing phase that will disappear at shortest moment. Surprisingly, the incident only signposted the height terrorism was fast growing in the country.
From then on, insurgency in the northern region dove- tailed into school pupils’ kidnapping amongst other crimes and spread across states of Nigeria like wild fire.
In the year 2021 alone, Kaduna State has recorded not less than five such cases, putting the state on the average of one incident per month. In April, precisely Tuesday, 21st, the invasion of Greenfield University and abducted scores of pupils by unknown gunmen raised dust across country not just because people were kidnapped but because it was turning into a regular phenomenon. That particular incident came just one month after 39 students were equally abducted in another similar incident. The recurring rate probably incensed the state governor, Nasir el- Rufair’s refusal to negotiate with bandits for any ransom in securing victims’ release.
In 2018, 110 school girls were abducted in Government Science School, Dapchi, Yobe State. It was a horrible time for both victims, parents of the abducted pupils as well as school authorities in the state. In Zamfara State, more than 300 pupils, all girls were equally abducted by unknown gunmen in Jangebe town, northwest in an early morning raid on Friday, February 26th. Similarly, in Niger State, at least 42 people, including 27 pupils were kidnapped in Kagara town of the state.
In kankara town of Kastina State, about 300 pupils, all boys were abducted from their school about five months ago. The boys were said to have been released after negotiations with authorities in the state.
The United Nations estimated figures of kidnapped pupils from school in northern Nigeria alone from December 2020 to March 2021 to stand at over 700 pupils.
Amnesty International reports that more than 600 schools have been closed down across at least six states in the north.
Just a few days ago, a lecturer in Jos University and his wife were kidnapped in the Plateau State capital, sending a clear statement that the incident is not targeted at pupils alone but all stakeholders in the education sector whom the bandits can get hold of.
Even primary school pupils are not spared, as about 39 pupils had last week, been kidnapped in Rama village of Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
The import of these incidents is that Nigeria’s education is facing grave danger of continued existence. Given the fact that no parent would wish to trade their children’s life with academic honours, no matter how tempting, pupil’s enrollment into schools may be headed for serious decline for obvious security reasons, if nothing urgent and convincing is done by authorities concerned to halt the current ugly trend.
Consequently, the likelihood of having more number of out- of – school children in future Nigeria to add to the current 10.5million already captured in the group may be inevitable. Though incidents of school pupils abduction presently is more dominant in the north, which coincidentally holds 69 per cent of the total out-of- school children in Nigeria, the situation may worsen and spill further across the south, unless drastic measures are deployed to quell the insecurity situation the country faces at the moment.
The question is, where lies the hope for greater Nigeria with her current development in education?
Security situation generally is an issue in the country but schools and other vital institutions must not be allowed to slip into the hands of Invaders and bandits who care less about the present or future of the society.
Giving parents and guardians some measures of hope on the safety of their wards with strong security presence in the school environs cannot be more apt than now.
Apparently, it is no longer tenable for police personnel to be escorting and guarding political office holders and money bags while hapless pupils are left to the mercy of bandits.
As a matter of urgency, internal protection of pupils across all schools in the country should start with compulsory high security fencing of the environment. This will help check to an exten, movements in and around the school environs. Again, school and daily intelligence report gathering should be done by authorities to development functional response to situations when necessary. It is a common knowledge that cultism has stole into the nation’s secondary and primary school levels and only eagle-eyed security personnel in the surroundings can detect their build up in good time to nip their exploits from the bud.
Only those who prepare their futures well with strong foundations may likely survive the challenges ahead and Nigeria cannot afford to let her education be truncated with activities of bandits, if she hopes to reckon with successful economies in future.
The clarion call is for the country to make hay while the sun still shines, for further delay may spell dire consequences.
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