BusinessDay

Nigeria risks a lost generation on mass abductions of students

With mass kidnapping of students from schools becoming frequent, Nigeria risks a lost generation who might find it difficult to get ahead in life as they are stripped of the right to education.

Already, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the World. At 13.5 million, one in five of the world’s out-of-school children is a Nigerian.

The erosion of education for a generation of schoolchildren will reduce their abilities to earn a living and bring skills to the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.

Nearly 1000 students have been taken from schools in mass abductions since December 2020, according to the United Nations. According to a report by Amnesty International, over 600 schools have been closed over safety concerns and others declared unsafe.

Last month, the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, (NSCDC), Ahmed Audi said about 80 percent of schools in Nigeria are not well secured. This implies many more schools are at risk.

No lessons learned from 2014

The Boko Haram insurgency group stunned the world in 2014 when 276 girls were abducted from their school dormitory in the northeastern town of Chibok.

Read also: Step up war against bandits, kidnappers, Deji of Akure tells security agents

Seven years later, more than 1,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. At least 2,295 teachers have been killed and more than 1,400 schools have been destroyed, according to the United Nations. Most of these schools have not reopened because of extensive damage or ongoing insecurity.

In the latest wave of mass abductions targeting schoolchildren, gunmen stormed the Bethel High School in Kaduna state and seized 140 students plus staff members.

The Nigerian authorities’ failure to protect schoolchildren from recent attacks shows that no lessons have been learned from the Chibok tragedy.

The kidnap for ransom business is booming across northern Nigeria, and schoolchildren are its hottest commodity. According to a report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm, an estimated N10 billion has been demanded by Kidnappers ($19.96 million) in the first six months of the year.

After the Chibok attack, the Nigerian government launched a multi-donor program called Safe Schools Initiative. The Initiative was to ensure that schools are protected and safe spaces for children and youth to learn.

A $20 million commitment was made by the Nigerian government and its partners to improve security in schools in north-eastern Nigeria by building fences around them but the abduction of 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi in Yobe state in 2018 have posed questions about how the millions of dollars allocated were spent.

More child brides

Nigeria has the highest number of child brides in West and Central Africa with an estimated 22 million children married off before their 18th birthday. Of the 13.5 million out-of-school children, 60 percent are girls, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

A report by Save the Children shows that northern Nigeria has some of the highest rates of early marriages in the world where 39 percent of girls are married off before the age of 18 and 16 percent are married before they turn 15 years old.

With many schools closed in the north of Nigeria as a result of the mass abduction, girls are at risk of being married off than staying home idle.

In one of the abductions, bandits kidnapped 317 female students at Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, Zamfara State

According to the World Bank, child marriage is estimated to cost economies at least 1.7 percent of GDP. In Nigeria, the annual economic cost of child marriage as a result of lost earnings and productivity could be up to $7.6 billion (N3.12 billion).

According to the United Nations, education is a powerful protector of girls, especially in poorer communities, against the hazards of child marriage, including abuse, injury or death from early childbirth, and impoverishment.

Every additional year of secondary school education decreases the likelihood of marriage before the age of 18 by 5 percent or more, research by the World Bank shows.

A threat to the economy

Education has been named by Global institutions as a leading determinant of economic growth and a key to escaping poverty, therefore, Nigeria’s school abduction crisis only hinders economic development.

Nigeria has one of the most crushing poverty rates in the world with 89 million of its 200 million people living under $1.90 per day. The Federal Government has an ambitious plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years but the mass kidnappings put this goal in question.

For instance, Northern Nigeria is already beleaguered by endemic poverty. The World Bank has estimated that 87 percent of all the poor people in Nigeria are in the north. Despite this, the future generation of the north is being deprived of the right to education.

A large oil reserve co-existing with so much poverty in the same country is an indication that Nigeria’s wealth may lie in some other place outside its crude oil. Research by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) showed that Nigeria is among the oil-exporting countries that will be highly vulnerable to declining oil revenues as the world shifts from oil to renewable energy sources.

In the report by the World Bank titled, the changing wealth of nations 2018, the wealth of 141 countries were tracked between 1995 and 2014 and it was found that human capital is the largest component of global wealth, accounting for two-thirds of total wealth globally while Natural capital accounts for one-tenth of global wealth.

About 40 years ago, the Asian Tigers (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) were in almost the same conditions as Nigeria, but today their conditions have seen them evolve from the third world to first world economies. A common thread for the countries was the heavy investment in education.

Nigeria must begin to invest in its real wealth which is its people and it starts by giving children safe and quality education.

Nigeria has one of the lowest Human Capital Index in the world, at (0.36) its ranks 168th out of the 174 countries surveyed, only better than Liberia (0.32), Mali (0.32), South Sudan (0.31), Chad (0.30) and Niger (0.29). Human capital index (HCI) measures how much capital each country loses through lack of education and health.

Despite the challenges faced by Nigeria’s education sector, the government only apportioned 5.6 percent to the sector out of a total of N13.6 trillion budgetary provisions. This is against the 15 percent to 20 percent recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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