Sekinat*, a second-year junior student at the Government Secondary School in the Bwari area of Nigeria’s capital, only prepared for two papers scheduled to be held on Thursday, July 28, when she left home. On getting to school, the management told her and other students they needed to be careful due to rising insecurity in and around the city.
The students were forced to sit for all examination papers, including the ones they had not prepared for. And then the school was abruptly shut on the same day.
“They were supposed to write two papers that day, but because of prevailing security threat and directive from the government, the students ended up writing 12 before the school was shut,” said Akin Wale*, Sekinat’s father.
Like many parents, Wale expressed his displeasure over the development, saying it casts a grave shadow on the future of Nigeria’s education system. “We don’t even know whether schools will resume when the students exhaust the period of their holidays. Parents are apprehensive and afraid that the terrorists are winning the war.”
Jackson Sunday, whose son attends the Garki branch of the same school, described the sudden closure as disturbing. “It appears that the poor people in Abuja can no longer send their children to public schools, and even the private ones are not also spared. The armed men are threatening education and are fast winning the battle.”
He added that the future of young Nigerians is threatened by the government’s inability to provide learning environments where they feel secure. “My son is not even sure of what he wrote while being rushed to write multiple examinations on the same day. We cannot educate our children in this circumstance.”
In a recent attack, terrorists said to be members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) invaded the Kuje Custodial Centre in Abuja and released hundreds of detainees, including about 65 held on charges related to terrorism.
Reacting to the attack, the United States government issued an advisory, predicting a spike in violent crimes in Abuja. Days later, terrorists attacked soldiers deployed around the Zuma rock area and also the Presidential Guards Brigade in Bwari, a town in the outskirts that hosts the Nigerian Law School and other major establishments. The terrorists killed three soldiers responding to a distress call at the law school.
A leaked memo later surfaced from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) that terrorists are targeting some cities, including Abuja. Since the terror groups are notorious for attacking schools, the federal government first ordered the immediate closure of the Federal Government College, Kwali.
Many other schools in various parts of Abuja were also forced to alter their academic calendars to close ahead of their scheduled dates.
Some Civil Society Organisations have expressed concern over the development, arguing that terrorists are succeeding in making western education forbidden without even bombing the schools.
Aside from affected secondary schools, the security threat at the federal capital also led to the abrupt closure of Veritas University, a Catholic-run institution located in the Bwari area.
According to the management, closure became necessary to avoid security breaches that could lead to the attack and abduction of students. Not only did the school indefinitely suspend an examination exercise for freshmen, but a new academic session slated to commence in September has also been put on hold.
Similarly, another private tertiary school, Baze University, asked students to vacate the premises last month, citing road repairs near the school as an excuse. The school also directed the students to take their exams online. Multiple sources, including students and a staff member, however, told HumAngle that the shutdown of activities is related to rising insecurity in the FCT and its environs.
“The school only cited road repair as an excuse. After all, the road has been under construction for a while now. The management was trying to allay fears of students and parents,” a staff member, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, told our reporter during a visit to the school on Wednesday.
The school registrar, Ibrahim Ahmad, did not answer calls and has yet to respond to an email sent to seek clarification.
Insecurity paralysing education
With schools in Abuja being forced to shut down, there are concerns that the number of out-of-school children could worsen in the capital city, just like in other states affected by insecurity in the North of Nigeria.
Sulaiman Omojuyi, a retired Director Of Education and Training at the Lagos Ministry of Education, told HumAngle that unscheduled school closure would increase the number of students who are out of class and if parents are not sure of their children’s safety, they will be scared to send them to school.
Getting educated is becoming more life-threatening in many parts of the country. In 2021 alone, over 300 students and employees of secondary and tertiary institutions were kidnapped in the North-central and Northwest regions. While some abducted people were killed, many regained their freedom after spending months in captivity.
The activities of the terrorists have been making schools less conducive for learning. Already, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The terrorised northern regions, however, have the worst out-of-school children rates in the country.
Speaking on the way forward, Omojuyi said the Nigerian government must ensure that there are clear mechanisms in place to address insecurity, including causal factors such as poverty, injustice, nepotism, marginalisation, and corruption.
“We must raise our national intelligence to combat the menace of insecurity and invest in our security infrastructure to make the schools less vulnerable to kidnappers. Going to school should not be a suicide mission.”
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