NIGERIA: Since December, more than 600 students in North-West Nigeria have been abducted from schools, increasing the concern of a worrying development in the country’s kidnap-for-ransom crisis.
On Friday, 317 students from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state, were kidnapped.
This was seen as the second mass kidnap from schools in less than 10 days.
On 17 February, 27 boys and their teachers were taken from a school in Kagara, Niger state. They were released on Saturday.
According to authorities, these attacks on schools in the north-west have been carried out by ‘bandits’ a term associated with kidnappers, cattle rustlers, Fulani herdsmen and other armed militia operating in the region who are largely driven by money.
Since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants, many armed groups have taken back to mass abduction of students.
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REWARDING BANDITS WITH COWS FOR SURRENDERING THEIR GUNS
Many claim that a weak security infrastructure and governors who have little control over state security as the police and army are controlled by the federal government, have resorted to paying ransoms, making it easy for mass abductions to fetch money.
However, governors deny such claims.
Zamfara governor Bello Matawalle, who was accused of rewarding the bandits with houses, money and cars came out to debunk the story saying the he had never rewarded bandits with money and that the proported vehicles were given to security agencies and not bandits.
In July last year, bandits were promised by Matawalle two cows for every AK-47 gun they surrendered.
Many initiatives have been taken to improve the security of schools like the ‘Safe School Initiative’ of building fences and container schools that are built as temporary learning spaces.
Some schools have employed local vigilantes armed with local weapons, however, the success rate of these attempts is questionable.
THE IMPACT ON EDUCATION AND GIRLS
More than 20 schools in Kano and Yobe were ordered to be shut at the weekend because of the insecurity.
Some schools in Zamfara and Niger states also had to remain shut. For years, many schools have been shut because of the Boko Haram insurgency.
For a region with a high rate of out-of-school children, the situation is a massive disruption to gains that have been recorded in recent years, made worse by last year’s restrictions imposed because of COVID-19.
According to UNICEF, there is a net attendance rate of just 53% in primary schools in northern Nigeria despite free education at that level.
The levels for girls is even lower because of socio-cultural norms and practices.