Northern school closure amidst persistent insecurity

Exploring innovative ways to maximizing untapped human capital that abounds in Northern Nigeria amidst the spate of abductions of school children.

There is currently a northern puzzle begging for an expeditious solution this too at the risk of getting lost in the ever-expanding national maze that offers no seeming convergence. The education enigma in the north will require more than just a quorum of concerned citizens to accelerate the impact on all Nigerians. 

Ostensibly, a global transformation currently sweeps across the human sphere on the wings of innovation and technology laying credence to the leading role education plays.

For a sector that has proved to be an effective bridge and a synthesis between the basic nucleus — the family and the wider society — whilst offering deep illumination into the world of work and living, this call to action is an emergency. At the centre of the bifurcated viewpoint between optimism and pessimism, it is more futuristic and wholesomely desirable to align with the former as a reaction to the unimpressive indices that paint a gory picture of a region strategic to agricultural sustainability and central to policy and governance.

According to UNICEF, “there is a net attendance rate of just 53% in primary schools in northern Nigeria though education at that level is free and compulsory. The levels for girls is even lower because of socio-cultural norms and practices that discourage attendance in formal education” Still, while concerted efforts were underway by Northern Leaders, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and International development partners like the World Bank to improve the rate of enrolment in schools across all levels amidst the spate of terrorism holding sway by the terrorist groups — Boko Haram and ISWAP in Northeastern states, enrolled students themselves became the target of an expanded scope called ‘bandits’ consisting dreadsome kidnappers, armed robbers, Fulani militias and of course terrorists for monetary gains.

Needless to say, the current situation poses an even worrisome quagmire with a more ferocious impact on the region. We can only but imagine the physical and emotional trauma that a child within the basic and college ages of 8–16 will go through being exposed to harsh living conditions in the hinder forests — enclaves and camps of these bandits; having to be physically brutalized, subjected to torture and starvation and even video recorded in same conditions to spur the prompt payment of ransom.

Parents and guardians go through heartbreaks, mourning the absence of their children and wards, and directing endless pleas to the government for intervention with a benign hope to be re-united to them again. There also exists the psychological trauma victims go through in the aftermath of their celebrated release back to their families and societies. There remains indelible mental memory and physical scar.

Have we pondered what the girl child is sexually subjected to by abductors with many molested or forcefully married to their captors? Minors become mothers within what looks like an endless period of captivity and families ultimately are saddled with an even greater burden to cater for the new-born babies. How about the possibility of recourse to the use of children held captives as suicide bombers? This also is an imminent threat.

The foregoing considerations in a realist sense may seem like enough justifications why the government of Kano and Yobe states ordered more than 20 schools shut recently or why states like Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states have had dozens of schools shut for years. Yet, even more, northern states are pondering the total closure of schools in their territories.

Sadly, by so doing, we would only be advancing a 45-degree view to the current challenge — literally as against a 360-degree view. A two-pronged approach should necessarily open up a stratum of possibilities. I am certain that amidst the current threat of insecurity, we can bolster the expansion of knowledge and solidify human capital development in the northern region by exploring creative, innovative, technological and solution-driven approaches and alternatives to schools’ closure.

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