• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

In Nigeria kidnapping is war on education

kidnapping-Northern Nigeria

The education sector in Nigeria has become a perpetual weeping child. As though cult activities and frequent strike actions embarked upon by teachers, especially those in tertiary institutions, are not enough, the sector is now in full blown war orchestrated by bandits who now kidnap students.

To casual observers, the kidnapping of students in their tens and hundreds, which has become a pastime for bandits in Northern Nigeria, is just a social problem. But it goes beyond that. By every stretch of the imagination, kidnapping of innocent students and disruption of their school calendar and academic career progression are nothing but war and mindless rape on education.

Unlike before when education had meaning, today, Nigeria’s public schools have not only lost substantial meaning, but they have become deliberate targets of cultists, bandits and insurgents. In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram insurgents and bandits have deliberately targeted schools in their campaign of violence. Hundreds of schools have been burnt down; scores of students kidnapped and several teachers killed.

One of the widely reported of these senseless attacks this year occurred on February 17, 2021, when bandits raided the Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State, killing a student and kidnapping 42 other persons. Two months earlier, gunmen had raided Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, in President Buhari’s home state (Katsina) and kidnapped 350 boys from their dormitory.

In April 2014, 276 school girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in a boarding school in Chibok, Borno State. And 110 other school girls were also abducted from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State, in 2018.

With the target on schools by bandits in Nigeria’s North-West region, it is worrying if these bandits are not even Boko Haram members or an organised criminal gang who have systematically adopted Boko Haram’s anti-western education position. It is hard to tell who the bandits really are.

These, indeed, are “dastardly acts” that have left education in Nigeria in dire situation. That shouldn’t be because Nigeria cannot afford this war on its education system, more so as the reason for the country’s parlous situation is because the leadership is not only inept but also illiterate in their world view. We consider education too precious to be used as an article of trade by miscreants.

As a country, Nigeria could be pitiably funny and laughable. Looking at the trend, especially in recent times, how schoolchildren are methodically bundled out of their schools by a group of rascals, societal deviants and anti-social elements and the government does nothing, but finds a way to negotiate the freedom of the hapless students by paying ransom.

Not once, not twice, the commonwealth of Nigerians has been used to settle known criminals whose government, for political convenience and expediency, has chosen to call bandits, not criminals even when their actions and utterances have all the trappings of common criminals.

It is unfortunate that the government which, consciously or unconsciously, is emboldening the bandits by negotiating with them, each time they strike, does not seen to have paused to ponder on the cost of these bandit-activities and the kid-gloves with which they are treated.

Record shows that from 2012, Boko Haram began to warn and harass teachers, school workers, students and parents about the dangers of attending modern schools. Later that year, the insurgents started to destroy schools at night or during non-school hours. In a July 2013 video, Shekau, the leader of the Islamic sect, threatened to attack schools offering Western education. In 2016, a Human Rights Watch report quoted him as saying, “we are going to burn down the schools if they are not Islamic religious schools for Allah.”

In October 2015, the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) estimated that over 600 teachers had been killed in the North. As of April 2016, Boko Haram had killed 611 teachers and made over 19,000 others flee the North-East. The group also kidnapped over 2000 persons, especially females, in schools.

The Human Rights Watch report reveals that Boko Haram attacks also destroyed over 910 schools, forced closure of 1,500 others and the displacement of 952,029 pupils between 2009 and early 2016.

There’s no gain saying that this war is not only fierce and deadly, but also targeted at the girl child which makes it all the more worrisome. Considering that this is happening in an overly educationally disadvantaged region of the country places a moral burden on the leadership of the country to halt this war now.

We see everything to condemn in a country where the education system is under siege; where students in their halls of residences are carted away like fouls in what now looks like an organized kidnapping. Today, the students are taken away by bandits, the government employs a negotiator, pays ransom and the students are brought back, dressed up, fed with government money for some days and then “reunited with their parents.” Tomorrow, another incident occurs and the process goes on again and again.

For us, this vicious cycle is unacceptable because it is anti-development. It is also balderdash and a deceitful way of fighting banditry or insurgency in a country where rising cases of insecurity has made an otherwise strong economy a lame-duck, unsupportive of any meaningful investment.

We join advocates of carrot and stick as an approach to dealing with the bandits. Government needs to make a strong statement with arrest, prosecution and, if need be, public execution of these bandits to serve as a deterrent to other insurgents, militants or any other group that makes life miserable for other citizens of the country and, by doing so, puts the national economy on reverse gear.

We believe in the centrality of human capital development, which education offers, in the march to economic growth and development. It remains to be seen how this could be achieved given the frequent disruption of academic calendar and traumatisation of students through kidnapping for self-profit as it now seems.

We urge the government to rise to the occasion; muster enough political will and deal with this growing fad of taking away school children, collecting free money from the government and releasing the students. We believe, and strongly too, that no nation grows educationally under this tense and fearful situation.