Terror blows on schools: The threat of educational apathy in Northern Nigeria 

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Reactions from stakeholders have recently been taking toll of concerns as Schools recently are increasingly becoming soft spots from mischievous elements of terror and mayhem across the Country. Recent situations have seen bandits taking the part of the precedence laid by the 2014 kidnap of the Chibok schools girls with determined attempt directed at pupils and students. The North West has recently being faced with the scourge of banditry with the turn to kidnap-for-ransom mayhem assuming expansive character, for which school children have also been enlisted in their soft targets.

Reservations and concerns have began to take toll recently as it appears the school system may be far drifting into the danger zone of insecurity threats.  On Wednesday, former students of unity schools in the Country under the umbrella of Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) appealed to the Federal Government to prioritise protection of learning centres across the Country following worries over the heightening of insecurity threats, with emphasis on terrorist attacks on schools. President-General of USOSA, Lawrence Wilbert, speaking at its 38th Plenary and Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Abuja, lamented the approach of the Government over the sour development. Wilbert, in his presentation at the event, tagged: “The Role of USOSA in Uniting Nigeria”, lamented that the education sector is seriously threatened, tasking the government to secure learning environment for students to excel.

Stressing that “education is a fundamental and constitutional right of every child,” he was quoted: “The association abhors extremism, particularly as it relates to the safety of students and academic establishments. We have lost too many innocent souls, and education sector is seriously threatened, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. In this quest of nation building, the role of education both basic and secondary cannot be over emphasised. The inability of the government to tackle security and other challenges facing the society has left schools exposed to attacks and left Nigerians desperately groaning for help.The strong, united Nigeria we knew as children and students of various unity schools across the land is clearly disintegrating before our eyes. The socio-economic prosperity, ethno-religious co-existence and mutual trust, sound moral quotient, palpable patriotic spirit, people oriented political leadership and other vital features of our national fabric seemingly have taken permanent leave of our shores. The consequences are glaring. Our law and justice system, education, business and finance, security and agriculture, sports and health, science and technology, politics and governance, and other vestiges of functional society have taken deep plunge into the abyss of a failing nationhood.”

Recent turn of mischievous elements to schools as soft spots have seen the dimensions of insecurity attracting new narratives offsetting the sector, particularly in the North where the evolving storms of banditry have recently attracted new dynamics. Teachers as strategic stakeholders are known to be inexcusable from the threats of insecurity targeted at schools across several parts of the Country. The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) had recently said it has lost no less than  800 teachers to insecurity in the Northeastern part of the Country. The Union had threatened it would withdraw its members and students from schools that do not have adequate security. The National President of the Union, Dr. Nasir Idris, who disclosed this while fielding questions from journalists in Abuja, had lamented that teachers were being kidnapped alongside their students in the North-west. According to him, when kidnappers attack the schools, some teachers would insist that they would not abandon their students and even accept to go with them if they would be taken away. He had lamented that secondary school and primary school teachers were leaving the profession for other jobs; thus making the teaching profession more unattractive. He was quoted: “We have been making our case before the Federal Government because we said the way things are going, if this thing is not addressed before you close your eyes and open them, you may notice that schools will be non-existent  in so many places in this country. We appeal to the Federal Government to help provide security in our schools, and at the same time, ensure that not only is security provided, but also enough security to man those schools where we have problems. If you look at it, you will see that it’s not all the places we have problems. The problem is in some places, some local government areas, and some parts of the States where we have this issue of banditry and Boko haram. We have lost a lot of members as far as this issue is concerned. So, we said the government, as a matter of urgency, should provide security to those places. Any place we see that the Federal Government does not provide enough security to mount those posts, we can’t just put our children and teachers in trouble. So, that’s why we say that if security is not being provided, we will ask teachers in those areas to withdraw their services. We have made this point clear to the Federal Government. Well, I can say we have lost almost 800 teachers in the North East.

“It is not that we have lost teachers but teachers were being kidnapped together with their students because some of the teachers insisted they must go along with their students if the students were going to be taken away.They said if you are going to take our children, carry us all together because we can’t just leave our students to be with you.”

At the wake of resumption for basic and secondary schools for another academic calendar in September, panic over being attacked was set before children, their parents/guardians and relatives. The panicky situation had  yielded a gap of disconnection pulling children back from school.  At least one million among more than 37 million school children in Nigeria were recorded to have been held up in fear of returning to school as the resumption commenced – the United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) had observed. UNICEF had noted in September that “so far this year, there have been 20 attacks on schools in Nigeria, with 1,436 children abducted.”   UNICEF, had in a statement by its Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said learners were being cut off from their education and other vital benefits schools provide, as families and communities remain fearful of sending children back to their classrooms due to the spate of school attacks and student abductions in the Country over the last several months which has seen the  conditions of insecurity worsening.

It is in the affirmative inarguable that the scourge of insecurity threats have begun to hit the blow of deformities on the education sector. The situation becomes mind-boggling when thought is given to the state of education profile in the North. It has become troubling that a part of the Country largely ridden with deficiencies of deep seated deficits in education is coming under the cloud of threats to educational formations — a development capturing the sense of panic and fear as strings of deterring factors capable of worsening the apathy syndrome to education in the region. It is instructive to note that the associated troubles attached with having a huge population highly uneducated is such which portend strings of conditions unfavourable to the quest of development civilisation.

It is pertinent that the Government come to the reality of the importance of addressing the strains posed by insecurity against schools in the North to foreclose the entrenchment of the prevailing deep seated apathy to education. The human capacity profile of the Country’s population is known to be unsavoury to a large extent as significantly inspired by huge deficit in education, particularly in the teeming population of the North. The essence of a huge population is defeated when the larger majority are within the corridor of low human capacity profile. Under such conditions, against serving as an advantage, such demographic character only pose preconditions of backward or sluggish growth. It is essential that the Federal and the respective State Governments in the troubled zones, develop strategies to address, as a subject of priority, the scourge of security threats against schools, which has the potent circumstances of furthering the entrenchment of apathy to education in the North.