Deteriorating insecurity in Niger and Kaduna states is taking a significant toll on education in the two states. Parents now withdraw their children from schools in the states to safer parts of the nation. The action, which places more burden on the parents’ finances, further shows the low capacity of the states to protect school children and education facilities. The ICIR’s Senior Investigative Reporter, Marcus Fatunmole, reports.
SENSING danger the kidnapping of schoolchildren by bandits portends for his child, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai secretly withdrew his six-year-old son, Abubakar Al-Siddique, months after he enrolled him at the Kaduna Capital School in September 2019.
During the campaign for his election as governor, el-Rufai had promised to enrol the boy in a public school in the state to set an example for his counterparts in other states, and other public office holders who send their children to schools abroad or private schools in the country.
Siddique’s enrolment coincided with when bandits preyed on the state capital and other communities in the state – killing, abducting school children and other residents.
The bandits often demand that ransome be paid, or the victim is slaughtered in the forest.
The Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Rafi Local Government Area of the state is one of the facilities where the bandits have launched an attack.
Since they attacked the institution on February 17, 2021, and abducted 27 students, the school has remained a ghost of itself.
Only soldiers use the premises. Its teachers have not been deployed to other schools to work, according to The ICIR’s findings.
A number of the schoolchildren have moved to different communities in the state and other parts of the country.
Similarly, it took the Greenfield University in the state some time to relocate and resume teaching after gunmen attacked the school and whisked away 20 students and three staff on April 20 2021.
The kidnappers killed five of the students before releasing the others after collecting ransom.
Between January 2020 and the time the reports on the withdrawal of el-Rufai’s son from the school emerged, deaths from insecurity in the state were already three times higher than the North-East, enmeshed in decade-long terrorism conflict, recorded within the period.
According to the state quarterly security report, from January to September 2021, 888 people died while kidnappers held on to 2,353 persons in the state.
Chapter Two, sub-section 2b of the Nigerian constitution (1999 as amended), states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
With worsening security misfortunes in the state, parents like Governor el-Rufai are pulling their children out of schools to save them from terrorists, who operate under different guises, namely bandits, kidnappers and gunmen.
But the action comes with varying consequences.
How parents withdraw their children from schools in Kaduna State
Olola Akioye Seun is a journalist based in Abuja. In 2020, he pulled out his 11-year-old son from the Command Secondary School in the state capital and enrolled him in Abuja.
He said it was challenging for him to keep going with the child from Abuja to Kaduna and be checking on him because of insecurity.
Going to Kaduna by road from Abuja was risky, while using the train cost him more because many a time, he got the train tickets through the black market.
“When the issue of kidnapping in schools started happening, I didn’t have peace of mind. I kept thinking about where next the kidnapping would occur in the state. Every call from that school to me caused me fear.
“A lot of kidnappings kept coming, especially in schools. I had wanted my child to go to school in the core North with other students from different tribes, but at what cost would I be doing that? So, when the insecurity is becoming too much, I had to take my son out of Kaduna.”
His child has since been schooling in the nation’s capital as a day student.
“I had to make the hard decision of bringing the child back to Abuja to a day school which is far much expensive than what I paid in Kaduna.”
Moses Jonah is from Igabi Local Government and an indigene of Kaduna State.
He withdrew his son, Daniel, from a private school in the state and brought him to Abuja in 2019.
According to the father of the 16-year-old, it has always been his dream to give his children the best education and guide them through life.
He said there was little he could do when he was not in charge of security in the state.
“Security has gone from bad to the worst. I cannot go through the trauma of seeing my child in the hands of kidnappers.”
He said bandits had constantly attacked his community in Igabi local government, and people in the area hardly slept; the reason he took his son to Abuja.
He will spend more on the child in Abuja and lose direct contact with the boy. However, he is happy that his child will be safe.
Margaret John is from the Igabi Local Government of the state. Because of insecurity, she pulled her daughter Comfort from a private school in Mandi.
She is happy to see her child schooling outside her locality and considers the decision better than not guaranteeing her safety.
She said insecurity in the state had not improved. She added she would not allow her children to school in the state because her friend was among the people abducted at the Bethel Baptist School in 2021.
Teachers strike, insecurity compel parents to withdraw children from Niger schools
Kaduna is not alone in the crisis. Niger State, its neighbour, faces a similar predicament.
But the situation appears worse in Niger State because three weeks after schools have resumed in other states, teachers in Niger have been on strike.
The teachers are protesting pay cuts by the state government.
Forty-year-old Amina Vatsa has taken three of her children from Lambata to Abuja to continue their education.
She withdrew them from schools in the state in February last year.
One is in JSS 2, the other in primary five, while the last is in primary two. The children are 10, seven and three years respectively.
Vatsa and her late husband are from Lapai Local Government Area.
She fends for her children with the proceeds from kunu, a local drink that she sells. She said it would be challenging to cater to the needs of the children in Abuja. But she had no other option than to take the children out of Niger State, she said.
Bandits used to attack residents at Lambata and made them panic.
Oladoyin Olaitan, a 42-year-old mother, said she had been responsible for the upkeep of her children since her husband abandoned her some years ago.
She recently moved her children from Paikoro Local Government Area of Niger State to Abuja and Kwara State.
A petty trader, she said there was no security in many parts of the state, especially the remote villages.
Olaitan said she had lived all her life in Niger State. She expressed shock with the level of insecurity in the state.
“Taking my children out of the state is taking much toll on me. Apart from the shock I experience, I do not have the resources to care for my children, but I want them to be safe. It is only those who are in Abuja that will go to school. The ones I sent to Kwara will not go to school because I do not have the money to enrol them.”
Suleiman Salihu lives in Gurara Local Government of the state. He has withdrawn two of his children schooling in Gurara and will bring them to Abuja later this month.
He is afraid of their continued safety in the state.
His first daughter is in primary three, and the other is in Nursery Two.
Salihu grew up in Gurara and had enjoyed living there until attacks by bandits hit the state.
His sister, Meimunat Adamu, will also send her two children to Abuja to enable them to continue their education, he said.
He said many parts of the state was no longer safe for the children to school.
“We are no longer safe in Niger here. Yesterday, we took two of my uncle’s daughters from Katangora to Abuja. As I am talking, they are staying in Mabushi with our uncle, who is crippled.”
Residents of Kaduna and Niger states are cautious when discussing insecurity with people they do not know. The reporter also observed that many children had stayed away from schools in the states.
Government officials who have authority to speak on insecurity and exodus of students from the states carefully avoided The ICIR’s reporter.
The ICIR reporter contacted heads of the Universal Basic Education Board in the two states for an interview.
Chairman of the Niger SUBEB Isah Adamu agreed on a date with the reporter.
Adamu did not respond to the reporter’s calls, and text messages after the reporter arrived in the state.
The reporter got to Adamu’s office and waited for him for eight hours. The official ignored the reporter, despite being informed severally of the reporter’s presence in his office by the agency’s Public Relations Officer, Idris Kolo.
Kolo repeatedly said the official was busy in his office.
Speaking on impacts of insecurity on education in the state, the state chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers, Akayago Mohammed, told The ICIR that “it is a known fact that schoolchildren are leaving the state.”
He said the situation was affecting teachers and entire education in the state.
“If there are no students in the school, what do you teach?” he said.
Parents are not withdrawing their children from schools – Kaduna Govt
The Permanent Secretary, Kaduna State Ministry of Education Yusuf Saleh, said insecurity in the state had not gotten to the point that parents would pull out their children from schools.
However, he admitted that insecurity was negatively impacting education in the state.
In his office, he addressed The ICIR on behalf of the state Commissioner for Education, Halima Lawal.
“The Kaduna State government is committed to tackling insecurity and issues affecting Kaduna State education. Our school activities are going on smoothly without any hitch.”
He said the state government had merged some schools because of insecurity to ensure hitch-free teaching and enable children in areas affected more by the crisis to have uninterrupted education.
He said the directive by the government restricting school operations to only four days a week (Monday-Thursday) would not affect education negatively in any way.
He said the government would adjust the school calendar to ensure that schools do not lose any lesson hours.
“We will still maintain the actual timetable. Nothing will affect our calendar.”
Major abductions in Niger, Kaduna schools in 2021
Kaduna and Niger states witnessed multiple attacks from kidnappers in 2021, despite the states’ investments in security and support from the Federal Government.
The attacks were more recurrent and had higher casualties and victims than those recorded in the previous years, notwithstanding the bandits’ heavy losses from the Nigerian security forces.
On February 17, 2021, gunmen stormed the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, in the Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State and abducted 27 students, three teachers and two non-teaching staff.
In May the same year, bandits stormed an Islamiyya school in Tegina, Niger State, and reportedly went away with 136 children.
On April 20 2021, gunmen attacked the Greenfield University in Kaduna and whisked away 20 students and three staff. They killed five of the students before releasing the others after collecting ransom.
The school has since relocated from its initial location and moved into the Kaduna metropolis.
Gunmen invaded the Federal Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Kaduna State, and abducted 39 students in March 2021.
It took the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other leaders of other thoughts to rescue the majority of the students after seven weeks.
The attackers whisked away scores of other children at the Bethel Baptist High School in the state in July 2021.
In October 2021, gunmen kidnapped three men from the Christ the King Major Seminary in Kafanchan, Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, the bandits unleash worse attacks on people across communities in the two states.
Niger State Governor Abubakar Bello said terrorists attacked some communities in the state 50 times in the first two weeks of this year. He said 300 people died from the attacks and the assailants took away 200 people.
The outcry followed his similar confession in April last year that residents deserted many villages in the state, where bandits hoisted their flags.
Checks by our reporter showed that bandits attacks occur in all the 23 and 25 local government areas of Kaduna and Niger states, respectively.
Everyone who spoke with the reporter in the two states said the crisis spared no community.
Nigeria fails to protect schools, despite being a signatory to Safe School Declaration (SSD) Protocol
Nigeria is a signatory to Safe School Declaration (SSD) Protocol. The country hosted the fourth International Conference on the Safe School Declaration in October 2021.
The SSD comprises 112 member countries who, among others, are committed to ensuring that every boy and girl has the right to an education without fear of violence or attack… and every school should be a protected space for students to learn and fulfil their potential, even during a war.
Nigeria shut many of its schools while the meeting lasted.
Apart from Kaduna and Niger, many states are unsafe for school children, especially in the North.
Schools have been shut in Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, and others in response to attacks.
Save the Children said kidnappers took more than 1,000 school children in Nigeria in the first eight months of 2021.
Between 2013 and 2018, terrorists captured a similar number of schoolchildren, according to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF) says 10.5 million children in Nigeria are out of school, and there are fears the number could be higher because of spiralling attacks by bandits.
“Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years are not in school. Only 61 per cent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school, and only 35.6 per cent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education.
“In the North of the country, the picture is even bleaker, with a net attendance rate of 53 per cent. Getting out-of-school children back into education poses a massive challenge.”
Similarly, in its statement marking the 2022 International Day of Education, UNICEF said one-third of Nigerian children were not in school, and one in five out-of-school children in the world was a Nigerian.
According to the organization, there were 25 attacks on schools in 2021. Bandits abducted 1,440 children, and 16 schoolchildren died from school attacks during the year.
Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @ email@example.com.