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615 Schools Shut In Kaduna, Zamfara, Other States Over Fear Of Terrorists, Bandits Attacks, Abductions

As schools prepare to resume for a new academic session, many pupils may remain out of school as no fewer than 615 schools have remained shut in some troubled states owing to attacks by terrorists in different parts of the country.

Many northern states have come under attack by terrorists with many people, including children, killed and several others kidnapped. The most hit states are Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina and Niger, while Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi, Plateau and Taraba states have not been spared by the attackers.

The disturbing rate of out-of-school children came to the fore again on Thursday when a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, in partnership with Global Education Monitoring Report, showed that the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria had risen to 20 million from about 12.5 million recorded in 2021.

This has sparked calls for an urgent intervention by the government to arrest the situation so that the pupils can return to school.

Findings by Saturday PUNCH indicated that many schools were shut across the affected northern states.

Between 2014 and now, there have been mass abductions in several states, with over 1,000 pupils kidnapped. Even though most of the pupils have been freed, there are fears that there is still apprehension in some parts of the region over the safety of schools and the pupils.

Some of the major school abductions include the April 14, 2014 kidnap of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State; another 300 pupils from Damasak, Borno State; 110 pupils from Dapchi, Yobe State; 344 pupils from Kankara, Katsina State; 276 pupils from Jangebe, Zamfara State; 140 students from Chikun in Kaduna State; and 102 pupils from Yauri, Kebbi State.

In Kaduna State, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, which is an umbrella body for the people of Southern Kaduna, an area severely hit by insecurity, said about 500 schools, mostly primary schools, had either been shut down, abandoned or destroyed as a result of the unrelenting attacks on communities in the area since 2019.

The union’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Luka Biniyat, in an interview with one of our correspondents said in all the 200 communities sacked by bandits and armed herdsmen in Southern Kaduna, all the primary and secondary schools had been closed.

“In my village, Zamandabo, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area, which was attacked twice last year, the Day Secondary School there and the two primary schools remain shut down,” he said, adding that some schools had been abandoned for over five years as a result of the attacks and kidnapping, especially in the Chikun and Kachia local government areas.

He added, “The villages that confronted the situation and refused to vacate soon found that no teacher was willing to go to the schools to teach. So, we have kids, who left home when they were five years old, which was not the ripe age for admission into public schools in Kaduna State.

“Today, they are 10 years old and have never been to school, because they have become internally displaced persons with their parents.”

Biniyat called on Governor Nasir El-Rufai to empower the people to defend themselves before the arrival of military troops during attacks, and that if the governor refuses, a state of emergency should be declared in the state.

“In the interim, we are calling on the United Nations Children’s Education Fund to come to the assistance of our stranded schoolchildren. Many of them are suffering from food and nutrition deficiency.”

Also, the Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers in the state, Ibrahim Dalhatu, affirmed that the level of insecurity had grossly affected teaching and learning in the state, but that it was difficult to give the actual number of schools closed.

He said, “I cannot give you a specific number of schools that have been shut down now, even if you go to SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board) or the Kaduna State Ministry of Education, they cannot give you the exact number of schools that are closed.

“I know so many schools have been shut down and many primary school pupils can no longer go to school as a result of threats and insecurity. Birnin Gwari and Kajuru are the two most volatile local government areas that are worst hit by this banditry, and some parts of Giwa and Chikun local government areas are also affected too.

“Some of the schools were not totally shut down. Some schools closed down for some weeks, while others closed down for some months and reopened again. It all depends on the nature of the security problems.”

Dalhatu stated that the state government saw the NUT as its enemy, but that teachers were partners in progress, adding, “The government takes most of its decisions without consulting us until we make our own findings and put them out through the media before the government would react and ask us why we took such actions.”

He said insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the sector and if the insecurity problem was not solved, “not only the educational sector will be affected, but all sectors in the state will grossly be affected.”

El-Rufai had said some weeks ago that terrorists had formed a parallel government in some parts of the state and called for the Federal Government’s intervention.

All calls and messages to the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, to react were not answered.

Niger schools

In Niger State, it was learnt that about nine schools remained shut due to insecurity. After an attack on the Government Science College, Kagara, during which about 27 pupils and 15 others were kidnapped, all public boarding schools were shut in high risk areas to avoid further abduction.

However, the pupils were later released.

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the state Ministry of Education, Jibrin Kodo, confirmed that 18 schools were closed down initially and that the students were integrated into other schools close to them pending when the security would improve.

He noted that as of last month, nine of the government schools shut down as a result of insecurity had been reopened and that others would be reopened as the security situation improved.

Situation in Benue

In Benue State, the persistent attacks by suspected herders have also led to the closure of some schools.

The Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, Dr Emmanuel Shior, told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that he did not have the figure offhand, but that many schoolchildren were in internally displaced persons’ camps in the state.

Governor Samuel Ortom had on several occasions said about two million persons were presently in IDP camps across the state.

The SEMA boss said, “Many schools across Benue State are shut down on account of Fulani herdsmen attacks. Majority of the schoolchildren are in IDP camps and are receiving education through the Emergency Education Programme provided by the Benue State Government with the support of other humanitarian partners as well as volunteers.”

Shior stated that it would be wrong to open schools now due to non-stop attacks on communities in the state by the attackers.

“It’s difficult to reopen the schools now because the Fulani herdsmen’s attacks have continued, especially in the rural communities, where the schools have been shut down,” he added.

100 Zamfara schools

In Zamfara State, Saturday PUNCH learnt that over 100 schools in different parts of the state were shut down owing to incessant attacks by terrorists.

It was also learnt that most of the affected schools had been converted to bandits’ abode.

The Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Education, Alhaji Kabiru Attahiru, had during a two-day event organised by SUBEB in partnership with UNICEF in Gusau, the state capital, said at least 75 secondary schools in the state were closed due to security concerns.

Attahiru had noted that most of the schools, which were for girls, had been shut since September 2021 following attacks on two of them.

But speaking with one of our correspondents, the state Chairman of the NUT, Labbo Hassan, said residents of the affected areas, who could not flee their homes, were being compelled to work for the terrorists. Related News

Hassan stated, “It should be more than 75 (schools). About 106 schools were shut down due to insecurity. They (terrorists) have made most of the schools their accommodation sites. They go out, do what they want and return to the schools.

“Most of the residents left the places and those who are there have to be loyal to the terrorists and work for them. If they (residents) want to go to their farms and work freely, they pay some money. Notwithstanding that, when the crops are mature, the terrorists can seize them.”

Adamawa situation

In Adamawa State, the NUT Chairman, Chief Rodney Nathan, said the problem in the state was the lack of adequate fencing of most of the schools.

Nathan lamented the sidelining of the union on the issue of proper manning of schools.

But the Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Mrs Wilbina Jackson, said the number of schools shut as a result of insurgency or insecurity had not been documented.

She said she needed to get the details about the schools that have been shut down by the state government owing to insecurity.

Katsina’s strategies

In Katsina State, following the December 2020 abduction of 344 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, by terrorists, the government said it had adopted strategies to tackle insecurity.

It said no school had been closed. It, however, directed the perimeter fencing of all schools. It also directed boarding students, especially in areas with security challenges, to relocate to day schools close to their places of residences.

The Commissioner for Education, Dr Bademosi Charanchi, could not be reached for comments but he had told Saturday PUNCH in an earlier interview that the government was not toying with safety of students and workers in its schools.

Attempts to speak with the Chairman of the state branch of the NUT, Swidi Dayi, proved abortive as his phones rang out and he had yet to respond to an SMS sent to him since Thursday as of the time of filing this story.

Sokoto schools’ merger

In Sokoto State, the Director of Planning in the state Ministry of Education, Abdullahi Marafa, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the state never closed any school on account of insecurity.

“If you can remember, we never closed any school for insecurity in the state. What we did was to merge schools, especially those with boarding facilities and located in the local governments that are hitherto prone to insecurity with their counterparts in the metropolis. In fact, I’m happy to tell you that all our students are receiving their lectures and those that are due for external exams are able to sit them,” he said.

First published in The Punch

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