Education in Nigeria is increasingly threatened. On insecurity grounds, Nigerian school kids are faced with mounting violence at places of learning. On 17th February 2021, about 27 children were kidnapped by armed men from a secondary school in Kagara Niger State. The abduction is the latest item on the growing list of schoolchildren abduction in Nigeria. In December 2020, hundreds of schoolboys were abducted from their school in Katsina state. Although the schoolboys have been released, the incident was the most brazen target on school children in Nigeria after the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents. There was also the kidnapping of nearly 110 Dapchi girls in the same Borno state by terrorists. However, the schoolgirls were later released.
Although Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has directed the armed forces, police to ensure the abducted Kagara students’ safe return has little significance on Nigeria’s growing security crisis. On 21st February 2021, 21 passengers were kidnapped in the same Niger state by bandits. Nigeria’s north-central and north-west region is witnessing multiple security crises mainly perpetrated by bandits. The area has become a significant attraction for terrorists in the violent Sahel region.
The proliferation of violence and conflict in the region shows government’s inability to secure the area while also presenting fertile grounds for terrorism. Many conflict experts will affirm that the ever-increasing security crisis in the north-west and north-central zones are a no brainer. In August 2020, the United States alerted Nigeria that Al-Qaeda insurgent group has started penetrating the north-west zone in its expansion moves in West Africa. In December 2020, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the abduction of schoolboys in Katsina state.
A series of school attacks is a significant blow to the government’s efforts to reduce the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria. In 2020, the year coronavirus affected virtually all aspects of human life, including schools’ closure, Nigeria reportedly recorded improvements in school enrollment. Formerly at 10.1 million, the number of out-of-school children dropped to 6.946 million in 2020, according to Nigeria’s minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. Attacks on schools will worsen low enrollment in violent zones. Government must, therefore, ensure that learning environments are safe.
As a response to the 2014 abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School, launched a ‘Safe Schools Initiative’. Despite an initial $10 million fund and take-off with 500 pilot schools in Northern Nigeria, many kids still face grave dangers in learning places.
State governments must review school arrangements based on conflict and security risks in violent zones. The practice of boarding schools in areas prone to armed men’s attacks must be abolished to reduce school children’s vulnerability. The Nigerian government must expand the securitisation of communities prone to attacks. The establishment of community policing frameworks may create the avenue for local intelligence that will inform formal security units of impending attacks by bandits and terrorists.
The collaboration of quasi-security networks and formal security structures will help to securitise communities. Intervention efforts and security measures must include community actors in collectively ensuring school children’s safety in Nigeria. The Nigerian government must respond to the increasing violence in the north-central and north-west zones with proactive and tailored combative and non-combative measures. Many Nigerian children find themselves in an environment that is hostile to learning activities and threatened by the violence they know little about.