Killing Education in the North

Remains of Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State

The insurgency of Boko Haram in the north-eastern part of the country which has forced the federal and state governments to close down schools, has the potential of complicating the already poor literacy level in the region

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  May 12, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

BEFORE the outbreak of the Boko Haram insurgency, the northern part of Nigeria boasted of some of the best schools in the country. Although, compared to other parts of the country, enrolment had always been low, but the quality of education offered the schools was never in question.

Higher institutions like the Ahmadu Bello University, University of Maiduguri, Bayero University Kano amongst others were usually some of the most preferred by students seeking admission.

But since the insurgence assumed a fresh dimension sometimes in 2009, education in  northern Nigeria has been on a downward slide. With frequent attacks on churches, mosques, motor parks, schools and other public places, the fear of Boko Haram is now the beginning of wisdom for many residents in and around the northern parts of Nigeria.

In the three levels of education namely primary, secondary and tertiary, enrolments have gone down drastically in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and other states where Boko Haram have struck. The number of students in school across the north continues to reduce because the frequent attacks on schools have forced the governments into shutting them down.

In March this year, after repeated attacks in various parts of Borno State by members of the Boko Haram, the state governor, Kassim Shetimma, ordered that all public secondary schools in the State be closed down indefinitely. With the development, the education of an estimated 120,000 students in 85 secondary schools was put on hold.

In a similar development, the killing of over 40 students during an attack on the federal government college, Buni Yadi, in Yobe State, also forced the federal government to shut down all its colleges in the three north-east states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno. But in order to allow their students to prepare for the ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examination, WASSCE, some of the schools were re-opened.

Some parents of some of the abducted students
Some parents of some of the abducted students

The re-opening of the schools, however, turned out to be a miscalculation in Borno State as members of the Boko Haram sect invaded the premises of a government secondary school in Chibok on April 14, 2014, destroying many things and abducting over 200 female students.

Although 43 of the girls managed to escape from their abductors, so far, nothing is known about the whereabouts or condition of the remaining abducted girls. According to Asabe Kwabura, the school’s principal, there are over 1,500 students in the school, comprising boys and girls. “As for some of the girls who returned, according to their narration, they did not experience any hardship; it was only the difficulty of escaping through the bush, since they did not know the area.  They said the insurgents kept them under a tree but some of them were able to escape. They were taken away on Monday night but were able to escape on Tuesday,” Kwabura told a newspaper recently.

The Chibok incident eventually became the death knell for education in northern Nigeria as many more schools, including privately- owned ones have now been shut down. Parents who have children in various schools in the region are also withdrawing them en masse and enrolling them in schools located in relatively peaceful parts of the country.

A woman, whose daughter was one of the lucky 43 who escaped from the abductors, said she had begun making arrangements to transfer her children to another school in Abuja before the incident. “It is a very sorry situation. I have lived in Borno state all my life and we have never seen something like this. I am from Benue state but my husband and I have been here for long. We gave birth to all our children here and they are schooling here. Before this kidnapping saga, I was making plans with my sister in Abuja to transfer my children to the school where she’s teaching. It makes no sense risking the lives of our children because the Boko Haram people are capable of doing anything.”

Other than the federal government-owned schools, private secondary schools and tertiary institutions in the region have also been shut down, thereby making more students idle. Ashabe Ella, a youth corps member in Abuja, told Realnews that she has been trying to obtain her transcript from the University of Maiduguri where she graduated from in 2011. According to her, she has been advised not to come because the school’s administrative office operates skeletally for fear of being attacked. “Anytime I tell them I am coming, they will always advise me to wait because they don’t work every day. They are afraid of being attacked by Boko Haram.”

Most students in the north are now out of school
Most students in the north are now out of school

Ella also said that some students in the institution whose parents are financially buoyant, have abandoned their studies and relocated to other parts of the country. “I know a few people who were in that school but have moved out of the country or relocated to other parts. I can tell you that those who are still there live in perpetual fear.

As the abduction of the students in Chibok continues to generate reactions from across the globe, it is clear that Nigeria’s educational rating especially in the north would continue to decline. In a report released recently by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, Nigeria was ranked among nations where a large population of schoolchildren are not in the classrooms. The report claims that one out of every five Nigerian children is out of school.

The UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report, EAGMR, said Nigeria holds the world record of having the highest number of its young people out of school. With approximately 10.5 million kids out of school, Nigeria tops the table of 12 other countries, accounting for 47 per cent of the global out-of-school population.

Statistics in the reports show that about 40 percent of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school. The Northern part of the country has the lowest school attendance rate in the country, particularly for girls.

With these statistics, the closure of more schools especially in the northern part of Nigeria can only make matters worse. Stakeholders in the education are concerned that if the situation continues, education in northern Nigeria may be crippled completely. Nabila Lawani, an official at the federal ministry of education said, the continued closure of schools in northern Nigeria spells doom for the future of the region. She said if urgent steps are not taking, the illiteracy level in the region may increase in the nearest future.

“It is a pity that we are crippling the education of our future generation in the north and everyone is watching. We are the least developed part of the country and now they are closing schools. If care is not taken, the illiteracy level in the north will reach an alarming rate very soon.”

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