Large-Scale Kidnappings in Nigeria’s North Threaten Education

Nigeria has one of world's highest numbers of out-of-school children, 13.2 million, according to the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF). A wave of school kidnappings has worsened the situation, with some state authorities closing down boarding schools in their states until security is guaranteed.

The most recent attack on schools in Nigeria came last Friday, when gunmen abducted 279 schoolgirls from a government secondary school in northwestern Zamfara state.

A week before then, some 42 people including 27 schoolboys were kidnapped in a school in Kagara, in central Niger state.

So far, all abducted school children have been freed through negotiations.

But UNICEF says the recent spate of abductions is having a huge impact on education in Nigeria.

"At a time when the pandemic is rife, and some parents have withdrawn their children from school, or have not sent their children back to school, the insecurity and threats to educational facilities can only compound an already difficult situation,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria country representative.

Since the recent wave of kidnappings by criminal gangs demanding ransom, many state authorities, including those in Kano, Yobe, Niger, and Zamfara, have ordered the closure of boarding schools.

Nigeria Union of Teachers spokesperson Emmanuel Hwande says the closures will have consequences.

"It will disrupt the free flow of academic calendar, the flow of the children's education pursuit. It will subject the child to trauma,” he said.

UNICEF says the closing down of schools is not the best approach.

"The answer for insecurities against schools is not to close the schools down. It's to improve the security, to improve the connections between the school and the community so the community themselves offer some semblance of security," said Hawkins.

Most of the affected children can be found in the crisis-hit north of the country.

Many accuse the government of being insensitive to the dangers there.

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to bolster security around schools, while adding that security forces will continue to apply restraint when dealing with bandits to avoid children being used as human shields.

Source: Voice of America