As girl-child education is being threatened in the North, due to the nefarious activities of Boko Haram, in Benue State, the children within the school age in not less than 14 out of 23 local councils are either experiencing very unstable academic calendar or completely out of school due to the Fulani herdsmen invasion.
This ugly trend which started in the state since 2011, has continued to unhindered in local councils like Logo, Guma, Kwande, Makurdi, Okpokwu, Agatu, Gwer-West, Gwer East, Katsina-Ala, Buruku, Ogbadibo, Tarka among others.
The herdsmen do not only ransack these communities to graze their cattle but set ablaze houses, food barns, schools, hospitals and feed their animals with the people’s foodstuff with the dangerous intent of taking over their lands to settle down.
Irked by this humanitarian crisis Governor Samuel Ortom, who gave a figure of people staying in eight camps housing the over 170,000 IDPs during his recent consolation visit to camps to empathize with the displaced, said out of the number, 70 per cent of the IDPs are children who longer have access to functional education.
The governor expressed grief that such development poses a danger of wiping the state of future leaders generation to come and appeal for interventions from well-meaning Nigerians and the international communities to stop the humanitarian challenge.
The Guardian’s visit to two of the camps located at Agbagena and LGEA Primary School, Daudu showed that about 200 of each of the camps inmates were children under school age who have been thrown out of school due to herdsmen activities.
Perturbed by the upsurge of children in IDPs camps without education, the Catholic Education Services in the Diocese of Makurdi, led by Rev. Father Donald Tor in collaboration with the IDPs, commenced intervention schools in two of the camps located at Abagena, Makurdi and that of Daudu in Guma LGA of the state to alleviate the dangerous gap being posed in the sector by the continued stay of these children in the camps. The intervention schools include, both the primary and secondary categories.
In a chat with the Principal of the secondary school session at Agbagana camp, Boniface Wachur, he told The Guardian that they are running the school to bridge the gap and it is being operated from Monday to Friday. The principal further called for more interventions from well-to-do individuals and organisations to save the future of Nigerian children.
A parent and one of the IDPs at Daudu camp, John Umenger, told The Guardian that he has 10 children from his two wives who are no longer going to conventional schools due to the herdsmen attack.
Mr. Umenger, therefore, called on the Federal Government to quickly employ measures aimed at securing their communities to enable them return to their homes for children to continue their education.
In his reaction, a security expert and retired Chief Superintendent of Police, James Vandefan, condemned those cattle owners who relaxed in the comfort of their homes in cities, while they subject under-aged children to dehumanizing conditions.
Vandefan said nomadic children are deprived the benefit of education and other social amenities and are rather exposed to various forms of dangers, which could have been avoided if cattles were kept in the ranch.
According to him: “The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) should come in and arrest these children who are under-aged, or guardians or parents who send them to graze cows.
“They should be arrested because they are subjecting the children to child labour and depriving them from acquiring normal education.
“What is the essence of sending a cow to bush from morning to evening and these cows are still looking very thin and unhealthy. The best thing is to embrace ranching, it is a very good thing.”
The retired Police officer expressed dissatisfaction on the general intervention of security agencies in the crisis in Benue, particularly the Army.
His words: “I am not satisfied with the intervention of the security agencies. I will commend the police for quick intervention when this thing started in Benue, but the military, till today, I cannot see the effect of Operation Cat Race.”
“This is because the challenges are in the bush not on the roads, but most of the times, you see road blocks. But the Army is supposed to engage in patrol of the affected areas and ensure that the herdsmen occupying these places are driven out so that the local farmers can get back to their places. This is the only way you can say that the operation is effective.”
On the free entrance of foreigners into the country, Vandefan said looking at the ECOWAS charter that permits free movement, it doesn’t mean you will be moving with your commerce.
“You go as a citizen, stay in the country for three months and move out. But there must be proper identification. But if you are coming in with your cows they must be documented. This is the perk that comes with cows and this is the route you are following, there must be proper account that these are the people living here,” he said.
‘Government Should Provide Maximum Security In Schools’
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos
Aparent in Plateau State, Mr. Joshua Yusuf, says the issue of insecurity in schools, particularly in the northern parts of the country, has become worrisome to parents in recent times.
Yusuf has a child in the nursery school, two in primary, two in secondary school. They are in both private and public schools.
He said: “For me, kidnapping knows no bounds. Boys can fall victim just like the girls. The polarization of security outfits and lack of synergy among the community, the government and the security is the major cause of insecurity as far as te girl-child education is concerned.
“The only way to overcome some of these challenges is for government to give maximum attention to providing adequate security both in the day and in the night in all public and private schools. There should be community police relations. By this, it means it is the community who knows the stranger in their domain. There should be cooperation between the police and the community to get adequate information of the strangers.
“A school should adopt register of attendance of pupils during, before and after close of school. There should be roll calls because this is fundamental. Government should fund and give priority to education to avoid any form of dilapidated structure that gives access to strangers around such premises. Such premises should be properly fenced to ensure that whoever is coming to the school follows the main gate.”
According to him: “The suggestion here is that the Civil Defence corps, whose major responsibility is to protect civil society, is to be assigned to all public and private schools for protection. All heads of schools should collaborate with security at all levels for training and orientation and security tips.
“I dissociate myself from deployment of the military to guard schools. As far as I am concerned their major responsibility is to defend the state from external aggression and territorial integrity and engage in war, but not to be security guards in schools. Mere seeing a military man at the gate creates fears in the minds of parents and children. They are supposed to be in the barracks at peace time but not to move around school premises, because children will think that society is at war where everybody should carry guns to defend themselves.
“For the girls in every boarding school, there is always a matron who takes care of them in the hostels. Such matrons should not be people of questionable character and they must be properly monitored and checked by the security.”
As a teacher in a private secondary school in Jos, Yahaya Usman said that in order to ensure security for the children, what they do is to ensure that before admitting them into the school, they ensure they are not members of any secret cult which he said is usually identified by the way the students dress and the type of food they take which should be devoid of alcoholism or drugs.
“Any school that condones this thing is doomed and will experience abduction, kidnapping and killing. As a teacher, in admitting a student, such criteria should be properly looked into. We try to teach religious and moral ethics in order to inculcate in them decent societal ideals. I ensure that school rules and regulations, which include the period in school and the period outside school, are kept. We discourage any unnecessary visits by strangers to the school, which are usually done in collaboration with students for any kind of business. We teach them craft, tailoring, vocational and technical instructions to occupy them.
“We know that for any kidnapping to be successfully carried out in any school, there must be an inside source. We discourage the students from moral bankruptcy because the kind of behaviour of students in school can influence outsiders. If the students are morally upright, outsiders will find it difficult to penetrate them or influence them negatively.
“We also discourage them from attending night parties or social gatherings into the night or clubs because they may be badly influenced by hoodlums who may be sent as spies of kidnappers. We forbid them to carry firearms, cutlasses, knives and other dangerous weapons in school premises.”
‘Most Private Schools Erect Fence As Security Measure’
By Charles Akpeji, Jalingo
Though the abduction of schoolgirls as is being experienced in the Northeast has not become a menace in Taraba, parents and teachers are of the opinion that proactive measures should be put in place by the government in the state to avoid such incident.
Like the public schools, authorities of private schools in the state are not leaving any stone unturned by erecting fences in their schools to prevent any form of abduction or kidnapping of the students.
Sad that students and pupils of most of the public schools in Taraba are exposed to danger due to government inability to provide perimeter fence and well trained security personnel to man the gates, some of the school authorities said a memo to that effect have been submitted to the Ministry of Education.
Virtually all the public schools agreed that the government is doing nothing to prevent the reoccurrence of Chibok and Dapchi ugly incidents in the state.
“The truth is that our government doesn’t have listening ears. We the authorities of the various government-owned schools have met on several occasions to reach out to our government on the need to provide adequate security for our students and pupils. As I am talking to you now, no steps have been taken,” one of the principals said.
Citing recent strike action embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of the State university, following government’s refusal to provide a parameter fence for the institution, public schools authority, as stated by one of the headmasters may as well be compelled to toe the same path.
Some parents on their part, told The Guardian of their intention to bring such idea in their next Parent Teachers Association (PTA) meeting.
According to Madam Agnes who said two of her children are in one of the public schools located in Jalingo metropolis, “ some of us parents have not been comfortable with the news we are hearing concerning the adoption of school children in states like Borno, Yobe and even Lagos.
“With this your observations, I am promising you that we parents are going to draw the attention of our government and the authorities of our children’s schools to it because prevention, they say, is better than cure.”
The ongoing parameter fencing at the state university, which was necessitated as a result of the recent strike embarked upon by the state chapter of ASUU, according to the ASUU Chairman, Ruben Jonathan, would not doubt go a long way to ensure adequate protection around the students, lecturers and all the staff of the institution.
Another parent, Adamu Adams, however, has a different view stating that, “if we parents and guardians would continue to rely on this government to protect our children and wards for us, I think we would be making great mistakes.”
Rather than depending on the government officials whose children are studying in private schools in the country and abroad, he suggested that “parents should put resources together and provide fences and security for the public schools that our children are attending.”