School Abductions: Is Nigeria Wasting A Generation? By Alli-Bob Cinwon

Growing up in Nigeria, the phrase, “Leaders of tomorrow” has always been a recurring one from childhood days to early adulthood. For me, has always been a term that comes with mixed feelings, particularly giving me hope that comes with the thought of being tomorrow’s leader, the shared joy and hope that comes with it, kept me in faith with the Nigerian project.

Another thing for me is that nine out of ten times I must have heard that phrase was within the four walls of the school – right from primary to secondary and even university levels – it was like an adrenaline injection they kept pumping into my system.

As a student through all levels of my education, I wasn’t exactly a fan of school. I saw school as something I just needed to get through with to be able to move on with my life.

About a year after completing my first degree I had gotten into the labor market “the real world as many people refer to it”  and then I became grateful for my experience in school: The value of the knowledge gained, friends made and various interactions all through my years in school is something I will forever be grateful for. This realization led me to found a non-profit-organization – EVERGREEN INITIATIVE- which has provided quality basic education for not less than 300 displaced children at Community levels. The goal was simple; to give others the same opportunity I had.

Unfortunately, as time goes by, Nigeria’s educational system keeps descending into perpetual crises ranging from infrastructural decay, neglect, and sordid conditions of service. The country has at least 10 million children without access to quality basic education, another 27million children underperforming, and an estimated 60 million illiterate populace. In other words, 1 out of every 4 Nigerian children does not have access to education.

Nigeria with a population of about 200 million people has the most number of out-of-school children in the world ahead of China and India with a population of billions. While Governments, CSO’S and even private citizens are working hard to reduce these poor indices, news coming out of Nigeria in recent times with regards to wanton abductions is, to say the least very disheartening.

In the last 7 years, 1,157 children have been abducted right in their school premises by terrorists, from the 276 #Chibokgirls in Borno state {2014} to the 113 #Dapchigirls of Yobe state {2018} to the 344 kankara students and 80 students of Mahuta town katsina state {2020}, 27 kagara students of Niger state {2021} and most recently 317 girls of Jangebe Zamfara state {2021}. School children are being violently abducted, raped, and killed.

With these unfortunate trajectories, it is not farfetched to say education is under serious attack especially in northern Nigeria and we need a national action plan to combat this.

Every time one of these attacks happens,  schools are being shut down and Nigerian children are collateral damage while their counterparts in our fast-evolving global world are advancing. We have gotten to the point where children are scared to go to school and their parents are scared to send them to school because of the fear of their wards ending up under another hashtag. This is very worrisome when you even begin to think of our already deficient educational sector in Nigeria.

As a country, we cannot continue to fail our children because in the next 10-20 years they will be competing on a global stage with their peers and we are already putting them in a disadvantaged position. These occurrences have clearly showcased the failure of the government whose primary objective is to protect the lives and properties of its citizens. It is totally absurd to think that terrorists can feel free to walk into government-owned schools and abduct hundreds of children, release videos and make demands. It is simply unacceptable.

The government and our security agencies need to sit up or simply bow out honorably if they do not have the capacity to curtail the situation because we are very tired of trending hashtags on the same unfortunate issue every day.

We cannot keep being reactive to these situations, rather we need to adopt proactive measures against these terrorists. We cannot keep negotiating with terrorists as a sovereign country that we are because it is simply fueling their agenda. There’s this saying that goes “if you give a dog a bone every time it barks it will never stop barking”. The giant of Africa needs to wake up from its sleep because as it stands today we are wasting a generation.

 

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