What attacks on schools mean for students, teachers

THE attacks on schools and the abduction of students across Nigeria have become a recurring problem. Since the infamous abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Borno state’s Chibok village by Boko Haram, more Nigerian students especially young ones have become victims of abduction by terrorists.

Experts said the situation may fuel low attendance, demoralise teachers in Nigerian schools and increase the alarming number of out-of-school children, which is already 20 million.

This year, the terrorists have launched attacks on various schools and kidnapped students in Ekiti, Sokoto and Kaduna state in three consecutive months.


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The incidents began this year with the abduction of six pupils and three teachers of a private school in Emure, headquarters of Emure Local Government Area of Ekiti state.

On February 7, at least 287 students and a principal, Abubakar Isah, were abducted when bandits invaded the Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary and Junior Secondary School, Kuriga, in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

On Saturday, March 9, the terrorists abducted 15 Tsangaya students at the Gidan Bakuso area of Gada Local Government Area of the State.

Experts said the lack of adequate security measures, combined with broader insecurity across the nation, exposes schools to attacks by terrorists.

“Insecurity remains a big issue for the Nigerian government but the lack of proper security apparatus and framework for schools means they remain the first target for terrorists. This means that school-aged children in Nigerian schools around unsafe areas will remain at the mercy of kidnappers who are sure of no resistance,” said Oriyomi Ogunwale, a team lead at Eduplana.

He said this ugly trend not only endangers students but also affects their mental well-being and academic performance, while also impacting teachers’ job satisfaction and sense of safety.

“For students generally, there’s a certain fear they might not return home whenever they leave for school. This reduces school attendance, enrollment and academic completion. This is also a contributor to the increasing number of out-of-school children in Nigeria.” 

Reports have shown that Oriyomi’s concerns are valid. In 2022, the National Commission for Nomadic Education (NCNE) linked the increase in the figure of out-of-school children from 10.5 million in 2021 to 18.5 million in 2022 to the general insecurity in the country.

The commission said banditry, kidnapping, insurgency and early marriage in the northwestern part of the country as chief setbacks to the efforts by government and development partners to reduce the alarming trend. 

Similarly, former Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu while serving as minister also blamed the rising number of out-of-school children on the nation’s security challenges.

According to UNICEF, attacks on schools could Increase school dropout due to increased actual and potential violence, with a direct impact particularly on the girls, poor teacher concentration and capacity to cope, especially female teachers.

It also added that the situation could cause life-long emotional distress which may affect the well-being of children especially the girls(health issues, unwanted pregnancy, stigma).

Oriyomi added that the development could also demoralise teachers who hold the responsibility of keeping the children safe as they have to deliver their tasks with fear of imminent attacks by terrorists. 

“For Students, short-term effects can include absenteeism, unseriousness, inability to complete class activities which can lead to poor academic performance and class repetition which may lead to dropping out,” he added.  

“For teachers, insecurity leads to fear for life which can lead to absenteeism or irregular school resumption. This can lead to lack of job satisfaction and ultimate relocation or change of job.”

On his part, Oluwatosin Ishowo, a teacher and Educationist opined that the failure of the government to improve the security architecture schools in Nigeria exposes them to attack by terrorists. 

“Most Nigerian schools are not fenced and lack sufficient security architecture. Most schools are still in open fields like they were under colonialism. The major thing about security is not chasing after criminals, but foiling their operations before they happen via intelligence gathering. 

Oluwatosin said the horror being faced by the teachers is beyond imagination. “Only them can tell,” he said. “We can only imagine and still not be close to the reality of the horrors they witness in the hands of total strangers. As a teacher, you become parents to those students as well and get restless that faces you teach five times a week are no longer there, not because of holiday, but because of an unfortunate disaster such as mass kidnappings.”

The way forward

Abductions of students from schools in Nigeria are common and have become a source of concern.

In the last decade, terrorists have launched attacks on various Nigerian schools and kidnapped over 1,000 students according to data gathered by The ICIR.

Mass school kidnappings in Nigeria
Infographics: Mass school kidnappings in Nigeria

Within the past three administrations, the abduction of school children has generated millions in ransom for kidnappers, as fresh attacks prove no end in sight to the menace.

From former President Goodluck Johnathan to Muhammadu Buhari and, now, President Bola Tinubu, more than 1,000 students have been kidnapped between 2014 and March 2024. The ICIR had reported how Buhari’s administration recorded 300 per cent more schoolchildren abductions than Jonathan’s.

Nigeria currently has 20 million children out of school – most of them in the north, and most of them girls – and the school attacks and kidnappings have only made the situation worse.






     

     

    Experts said Nigerian authorities need to effectively endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, an international commitment to protect schools and universities from being attacked or used for military purposes during armed conflict.

    “If the Federal Government decides to provide proper intervention for the school safety declaration, they should work with local communities, use surveillance technology to monitor schools and ensure active partnership with the security agencies, school kidnappings will reduce,” Oriyomi said.

    Oluwatosin emphasized the need to modernise security in Nigerian schools and stressed the need for intelligence gathering to thwart abduction attempts. 

    “Government and others must be intentional about their responsibility. Security is one of the reasons why people pledge allegiance to the government, and when they fail at that, it gets shaken and automatically leads to lack of trust. I mean, people are now advocating to bear arms for self-protection. As of 2015, could anyone have imagined such advocacy would happen in Nigeria? Definitely no!”

    Nurudeen Akewushola is an investigative reporter and fact-checker with The ICIR. He believes courageous in-depth investigative reporting is the key to social justice, accountability and good governance in society. You can reach him via [email protected] and @NurudeenAkewus1 on Twitter.

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