ABUJA – According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of extra-curricular children in the world, at 13.2 million. A wave of school kidnappings has made the situation worse, and some state agencies have closed boarding schools in their states until safety is ensured.
The most recent attack on schools in Nigeria came last Friday when armed men abducted 279 school girls from a state secondary school in the northwestern state of Zamfara.
A week earlier, 42 people, including 27 students, were kidnapped in a school in Kagara, central Niger state.
FILE – People gather to receive students rescued by Nigerian security forces on December 18, 2020 in Katsina, Nigeria.
So far, all kidnapped school children have been liberated through negotiations.
According to UNICEF, the recent spate of kidnappings has had a huge impact on education in Nigeria.
“At a time when the pandemic is widespread and some parents have withdrawn their children from school or not sent their children back to school, the insecurity and threat to educational institutions can only make an already difficult situation worse,” said Peter Hawkins. UNICEF Nigeria country representative.
FILE – Oregun Junior and Senior High School students wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus attend lectures in a classroom in Lagos, Nigeria, Jan. 18, 2021.
Since the recent wave of kidnappings by criminal gangs demanding ransom, many government agencies, including those in Kano, Yobe, Niger and Zamfara, have ordered boarding schools to be closed.
Nigeria Union of Teachers spokesman Emmanuel Hwande says the closure will have ramifications.
“It will disrupt the free flow of the academic calendar, the flow of children’s education. It will subject the child to trauma,” he said.
Closing schools is not the best approach, according to UNICEF.
“The answer to school insecurities is not about closing schools. It’s about improving security and improving the connections between the school and the community so that the community itself provides some semblance of security,” said Hawkins .
Most of the children affected live in the crisis-ridden north of the country.
Many accuse the government of being insensitive to the dangers there.
President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to improve security in schools, adding that security forces will continue to exercise restraint in dealing with bandits in order to prevent children from being used as human shields.