REPORTER: CHRISTIAN NWANGENE
Nigeria endorsed the International Safe Schools declaration in March 2015 as a commitment to safeguard education in armed conflict.
But the spate of kidnappings of school children for ransom in recent times is turning into a dangerous dimension with many parents living in fear for the safety of their children.
There is no gain saying the fact that an educated mind is a liberated mind, and the future of any nation lies in the quality of education it bequeaths to its children.
Unarguably, education plays significant roles in shaping the character and strength of the children, but in Nigeria, reckless abduction, and shutting down of schools, threatens the future of education.
The kidnapping of Nigerian school children first made major international headlines in 2014 when the Islamist group, Boko Haram, abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls from a rural school in Chibok in Borno State, north-east Nigeria, sparking the popular online #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
The recent cases in mind included the abduction of over 140 Greenfield University and the Bethel Baptist High School students, both in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State.
This is in addition to the kidnapping of the 37 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, in Igabi LGA of Kaduna State, with similar cases in Niger, Katsina, and Zamfara States.
Painfully, parents and some cases the state governments paid huge amounts of money as ransom and this calls for worry.
In fact, the recent abductions by gunmen have prompted six northern states to shut down public schools to prevent such attacks.
Reacting to the development, a public affairs analyst and legal practitioner, Mr. Chukwunoso Daniel Ogbe, said government in the southeast should put in place effective and proactive intelligence gathering mechanism to ensure that criminal elements do not have upper hands.
“Government is expected now as a matter of urgency to establish some quasi security formations at least close to some institutions where you have boarding students and it will not be a bad idea mounting CCTV cameras at least within the territorial confines of some of these institutions and in which case even if we are unlucky to have such a development take place, these cameras maybe in a better position to help us carry out investigation effortlessly in the event such development happens.
“Most importantly, it is high time government sought the services of security experts that will help the government put in place some mechanisms that will help see to it that people do not have easy access to students, especially boarding students,” Mr. Ogbe suggested.
A mother and gender activist, Dr. Nnenna Anozie, described youths and education, as the symbols of a country’s future, noting that the way things were going in the country, especially as it related to insecurity, Nigeria was on the path of self-destruction, if nothing drastic was done.
“Our leaders and the citizenry have destroyed our politics and economy. We have killed our value system and communal spirit. Now we are gradually destroying our youths and education, two symbols of our future.
“Consequences of this mass abduction will be enormous. First, parents would loose interest in sending their children to school. There’ll be decline in education and this has a long term implications. It will lead to economic loss because the youth will be uneducated, unemployed and unemployable, especially as many of them maybe without skills and this will make them to hugely rely on the government for survival.
“And of course with our every day borrowing as a country, it’s obvious we can’t survive the after effects. Crime will be on the increase etc,” Mrs. Anozie cried out.
On what the security agencies are doing to protect school children in the area, the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) Enugu State Command, Mr. Denny-emmanuel Iwuchukwu stated that the Command had taken census of all the boarding schools in the State and was collaborating with the state government to deploy men and personnel to secure the schools against any attacks.
“We are having serious discussion with the state government with a view to posting our men to these schools, to make sure that our children are secured, because one trouble anywhere is the same trouble everywhere.
“By the grace of God, we’re handling the situation and we’re working diligently to make sure that our boarding schools are secured,” the NSCDC spokesman remarked.
The Enugu State Commissioner for Education, Professor Uche Eze, told Radio Nigeria that government was not sleeping over the situation as it was collaborating with relevant stakeholders, including security operatives, and the vigilance groups in the communities to protect school children and others residents.
“As at today in our school we’ve not heard the ugly experience we hear about, but because we don’t want a thing like that to happen in Enugu State and a number of measures have been put in place by the state government.
“I know that the Governor understands very well that security is everybody’s business and what he has started doing is to mobilize communities, the traditional rulers, the town Union Presidents to understand that for us to ensure security, all of us must be vigilant because schools are located in the communities,” Professor Eze noted.
The general consensus of all is that government should show more commitment tKowards providing the enabling learning environment for the children while ensuring that their rights and privileges were not violated in their bid to acquire education.