By Faith Nyasuguta
Over 1,400 children have been abducted, with 16 dead in Nigeria’s 20 attacks on schools this year.
The United Nations’ children agency UNICEF has also revealed that another 200 plus children are still missing in the nation.
At the same time, over one million Nigerian children could miss school this year even as a new term has begun amid a rise in insecurity and mass school kidnappings.
Since last November, armed groups have targeted learning institutions for mass abductions for ransom in northern Nigeria.
In earlier years, the abductions were executed by jihadist group Boko Haram before its offshoot, Islamic State West Africa Province took over.
“Learners are being cut off from their education… as families and communities remain fearful of sending children back to their classrooms due to the spate of school attacks and student abductions in Nigeria,” Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria said.
Over 37 million Nigerian children are set to commence the new school year this month, UNICEF said.
Approximately eight million children have also had to wait for over a year for in-person learning after schools were shut down following COVID-19 lockdowns.
In addition to Covid-19, insecurity has also necessitated school closures in Nigeria.
Parents in Nigeria are constantly in fear of possible abductions of their young ones even as they are meant to send their children to school.
With the raging pandemic, the children now face double tragedy in their pursuit of education.
A number of northwestern states have made efforts towards countering the rise in abductions by prohibiting the sale of fuel in jerry cans and the ferrying of firewood in trucks, in a bid to impede gangs that travel via motorbikes and camp in remote areas.
For Nigerian capital Abuja, the starting dates of the new term have been pushed back to a date that is unusually late without explanation.
However, parents believe the institutions want to keep their children safe.
The move comes even as learning institutions in neighboring states were targeted by kidnappers seeking ransoms.
In Zamfara state, all mobile network providers were ordered to shut down communications for two weeks “to enable relevant security agencies to carry out required activities towards addressing the security challenge in the state,” Nigeria’s Communications Commission revealed in a letter.
The order followed an abduction of over 73 students from a government-run high school in Zamfara’s Maradun district.
At the moment, all those learners have been set free but many more remain in the custody of the gangs.
Further, military authorities executed targeted raids on the hideouts of kidnappers among other criminal gangs in the state, locally dubbed as ‘bandits.’