On Monday, 19th February, 2018, a group of gunmen stormed the Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi in Bursari Local Government Area of Yobe State. The kidnap is suspected to have been orchestrated by terrorist group, Boko Haram though the group is yet to claim responsibility for that.
While there were initial conflicting reports of the actuality of whether there was a kidnap at all, or the number of kidnap school girls, the Nigerian Government has on Sunday, 26th February confirmed that not less than 110 school girls were unaccounted for after the unfortunate incident.
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this to newsmen in Damaturu after a closed door meeting between a federal government delegation, Yobe government, security agencies, community leaders and parents of the missing schoolgirls.
“It was a meeting between stakeholders to get a first hand information (sic) and, out of the total register of 906 students in school that day, 110 students are unaccounted”, he said.
The minister added that critical decisions were reached which included the deployment of police and Civil Defence Corps to all schools. He said security agencies were synergizing to ensure the rescue of every student abducted by the insurgents.
EduCeleb.com recalls that this twist of event is coming almost four years after the kidnap of 276 school girls at Government Secondary School, Chibok in neigbouring Borno State. That kidnap incidence on 21 April 2014 got global attention with the launch of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.
About two months before then, Boko Haram struck at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe State. On 24th February, 2014, Boko Haram massacred 58 students of the school in their sleep. 24 buildings in the school including classrooms, laboratories, hostels, staff quarters, the ICT centre, borehole, transformer, generator plant and kitchen were also burnt.
Beyond condemning the incident, the government of the day led by President Goodluck Jonathan did nothing else. That, perhaps, emboldened the terrorists to further attack schools.
Of the victims in the Chibok incident, 57 escaped, 4 were found, 106 were released. In the process, 19 of the girls’ parents died. 4 of those released among them returned with infants. The trauma the girls and their families may have experienced is unimaginable.
The whereabouts of the Dapchi girls remains unknown. These girls from various classes in their school are aged between 12 and 19. Their kidnap is the latest manifestation of unsafe schools.
As a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, several schools have been closed just as enrolment had been gravely affected. Teachers and students would almost be seen as considering schools as ‘danger zones’. The multiple Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps spread across Nigeria is a clear indication that many don’t still consider the places they used to call home safe.
The most recent report by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) titled “Education under Attack 2014” indicated that for over four years, armed non-state groups, state, military and security forces, and armed criminal groups had attacked thousands of schoolchildren, university students, teachers, academics and education establishments in at least seventy countries worldwide.
These attacks include one or more of bombing or burning down of schools or universities and extends to killing, injuring, kidnapping or illegally arresting, detaining or torturing students, teachers and academics. Nigeria is not listed among the most affected by the scourge but the nation continues to bear the brunt of the criminal Boko Haram.
By the end of 2014, Adamawa, Yobe and Borno State Universal Basic Education authorities had reported that a total of 338 schools were destroyed. Also, at least 196 teachers and over 314 learners killed and more than 276 learners abducted.
But the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported around the same time that 254 schools had been burned, and 276 were partially destroyed in Boko Haram attacks in the three states.
A UN report noted that since 2011, at least 1,280 teachers and students were casualties of Boko Haram brutality just as an estimated 1,500 schools have been destroyed.
The same day the Dapchi School was being looted, a suicide bomber attack was foiled at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID). Only the bomber lost his life in that incident. Between January 2017 and then, there had been not less than five attacks on the school campus.
Four people in the school got killed in a January 2017 attack. Among them was a professor and an infant. In July same year, 69 people were gruesomely murdered in another attack by Boko Haram insurgents. During that, three lecturers at the UNIMAID were abducted. They were only to be released on 10th February, 2018.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Chairman at UNIMAID, Dr Dani Hamman revealed back in 2017 that about 70 academics had resigned from the university since 2009 as a result of Boko Haram insurgency.
National President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Michael Olukoya once said that 600 teachers had been killed by Boko Haram just as 19,000 others got displaced as a result of the nefarious activities of the terrorists.
Figures for the 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview suggest that over 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with over 3 million of these specifically in need of Education in Emergencies.
Boko Haram terrorism had also increased the number of out-of-school children in the crisis ravaged North-East region. A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2018 says that 2.5 million kids are at risk and needy of psychosocial support as result of Boko Haram attacks.
A research by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) shows that half of the world’s primary-aged children who are out of school, live in conflict-affected states, and most never get the chance to complete their education, “leaving behind entire generations”.
The UNICEF report also indicates the unfortunate occurences had shot Nigeria to the top among countries with the high number of out-of-school children. There are over 10.5 million out of school children in Nigeria today.
According to the GCPEA, “in the worst cases, children have been injured and killed and schools damaged or destroyed when belligerent forces have attacked schools because military forces were using them”.
Schools and universities are targeted for different, and often multiple, reasons – whether it is to create instability, attack the perceived type of education offered, seize facilities for military use; or in the case of higher education, to prevent expressions of alternative political views.
Boko Haram considers Western education as evil. Its devilish activities continue to pose a threat to education in Nigeria.
EduCeleb.com believes this threat can be conquered with a combination of military and intellectual war fare. Nigeria’s security agencies should consolidate on intelligence gathering and sharing. Citizens too should be willing to volunteer information to the forces. The intelligentsia should never rest their oars in fortifying the frontiers of knowledge.
We expect the President Muhammadu Buhari government to be more proactive about the security of our schools so as to prevent another occurrence just as efforts should be concerted to rescue the kidnapped girls alive promptly.