Education remains the foundation of advancing development and evolving strategies aimed at confronting problems militating against modern society. Any form of exertion intended at scuttling learning within a formal context amounts to retreating development that is hinged on acquisition of knowledge. When the acquisition of knowledge is hampered by terror gangs and criminals, such is capable of crippling personal dreams and national development.
Salvaging the future of a given society and working towards its advancement can only be done through education. When a society is educated, the future is assured. Like President Ronald Reagan of the United States of America once said, the future is only for those that are prepared educationally. Therefore, an attack on education is an attack on the future of the country.
Over a decade ago in Nigeria, precisely in 2009, the emergence of Boko Haram led by Mohammed Yusuf in the North-east zone proved catastrophic for education. Anchored on the belief that Western education is corruption and should be avoided, the sect members, though peacefully, were opposed to orthodox education on the premise that it promotes corruption in the political system. Considering the level of rot that has become the norm in various strata of national life, Nigeria’s ruling elite have become more of a burden than liberating citizens groaning under economic hardship and social injustice.
The manifest failure of the political system to address the pains of subjugation gave rise to this liberation theology. Though the level of violence visited on schools then was minimal, it is on record that the militant sect opened the floodgate for students’ abductions when it successfully kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014.
The Chibok abduction caused international outrage and ignited a global campaign demanding the rescue of the students. Traumatised parents of the abducted students more than anything darkened the prospects of renewing President Goodluck Jonathan’s mandate who then was engaged in securing a re-election bid. Being the first of such an incident, not many Nigerians looked forward to ending such a spectre of violence with the defeat of Jonathan. That was not to be.
Riding on the state of insecurity that had turned citizens into frightful objects as a result of bomb explosions rocking various parts of the country, it took the All Progressives Congress (APC) less stress in convincing Nigerians to reject the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the polls. The overwhelming pressure arising from the campaigns of militant sect and other outlaws turned out decisive in defeating PDP that had vowed to rule the country for 60 years.
Over six years since assuming the reins of power, President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to completely stamp out the monster of insecurity running wild in various parts of the country. Not only is Boko Haram unleashing deadly attacks on military installations despite claims of being technically defeated, there has been burgeoning terror gangs, with focus on attacking schools and enthroning a culture of fear and trepidation among parents and students.
The present deplorable state of education has its origin from a long history of students’ abductions that started with Chibok and was soon followed by the Dapchi incident in North-eastern Yobe state. Negotiation anchored by an international group that eventually led to the release of the girls, with the exception of Leah Sharibu who refused to denounce her Christian faith to become a Muslim. The Kankara boys’ kidnap, the Jangebe attack, the Greenfield University and Afaka abductions in Kaduna state have exposed the real intention of the kidnappers whose sole intention is to destroy the educational prospects and leave traumatised parents and students with no option than to abandon formal learning.
Last week’s abduction of students in Yauri Federal Government College, Kebbi state, has sent clear signals that education is under attack. The assault on the unity school by these daring bandits has forced some states, mostly in the North-west and North-east, to close down schools to avoid a repeat. While security forces are still in hot pursuit of the kidnappers, a student was reported to have died, while some of the gunmen have been decimated.
If Boko Haram’s vision of destroying schools and killing teachers has not led to a reduction of school enrolment in areas under the clutch of the sect, dare devil bandits are not letting go in truncating education through ceaseless assaults on schools and other learning centres that are outside of the sect’s enclave.
The unstoppable waves of attacks by bandits on Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina and Kebbi, among others, have turned the North into the nation’s headquarters of students’ abductions. The abduction of the Greenfield University undergraduates and the subsequent killing of five of the students reveals the inhumane nature of these criminals determined to revert the gains attained in advancing education in the region.
With over 2000 teachers killed by Boko Haram over the years and hundreds of schools turned into ruins, we need no prophet to predict a gloomy future for the North. For a region that has always been playing the catch-up role with other parts of the country in education, banditry has introduced perturbing devastations of schools made worse by abductions of students, leaving catastrophic consequences for the future. The problem is not that these schools have become targets for bandits in search of ransom; the major headache is that the government has not demonstrated enough commitment in stopping these undesirable elements from carrying out their reprehensible acts.
The truth is that most of our leaders do not believe in Nigeria. Having sent their children abroad to some of the best schools in the world, these leaders care less about what happens to our educational system. That explains why the nation’s elite who can afford foreign education for their children have allowed education to tailspin to almost an irredeemable point. Going by the level of carnage and fear that are consequences of these abductions, the general feeling of dreadful insecurity has pervaded schools located outside city centres, with both parents asking if it is worth the risk to send their children/wards to schools. With the bandits unchallenged by superior forces, it is unmistakably clear that these bandits are colluding with bad elements in the security forces as re-echoed by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.
Riding on the fact that parents can do anything to save their children/wards from danger, kidnappers have seen through the soft spot of citizens in extracting huge ransoms. Lack of adequate boots on the ground has made the task of safeguarding these schools almost a mirage without involving patriotic non-state actors.
Apart from the despair caused by unemployment, resorting to the lucrative and high-paying criminal endeavour of abductions, these outlaws are finding it increasingly difficult to abstain from criminal activities.
It is not enough for the government to insist that parents of abducted students should not pay ransom. What the government should and must do is to be proactive in tackling insecurity by encouraging necessary synergies among security agencies to curb the activities of these evil men that are determined to cupboard the future of our children. The over 10-year insurgence rocking the nation and the spiraling waves of abduction is cold comfort in encouraging school enrolment. The millions of graduates still roaming the streets, with attacks on schools, is enough to remove the urge from parents to send their children/wards to schools.
The manner the government has handled the continued attacks on schools has not helped matters. The Safe School Initiative (SSI) that was launched in Nigeria in May 2014 by the World Economic Forum on Africa should be revisited in order to provide safety nets for internally displaced victims of insurgence and banditry to return to schools.
More than anything, the current administration should recruit more boots on the ground and involve patriotic non-state actors in assisting our military and the Nigeria Police headed by Mr. Usman Alkali Baba. Nothing should be spared in protecting the future of our country from the hands of these deadly brigands.