By Saliu Olanrewaju Lah
Nelson Mandela, one of African finest leaders, once posited, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can utilize to transform the world” Also, according to the popular saying, education is the bedrock of development in any society. In essence, the importance of education cannot be overemphasized.
However, the reverse appears to be the case in Nigeria, in recent years, Nigerian state have been faced with unprecedented security challenges which have ravaged particularly Northern Nigeria.The wanton loss of lives and livelihood cannot be adequately quantified in practical terms.
These security challenges have taken a dangerous dimension where schools are being targeted as students are kidnapped and abducted in large numbers and held in hostages in different camps in the forests.
The UNESCO in 2022 in one of its reports, revealed that Nigeria has the highest number of individuals who are not enrolled in school in the world and put the figure at 20 million. It further broke it down that about 12 million of these persons are based in Northern Nigeria.
In April 2014, during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, over 270 female students were abducted in Government Secondary School Chibok in Borno State. In the same manner, about 317 female students of Government Girls Secondary School Jangebe, in Talata Mafara local government of Zamfara State were also abducted.
Leah Sharibu, one of the 110 female students kidnapped from the Government Girl’s Technical and Science School Dapchi in Yobe State was said to have remarried another Boko Haram Commander having being in their custody for over 5 years.
In April, 2021, Greenfield University located along Kaduna-Abuja highway in Kaduna State students were attacked, and some of them were released after payment of ransom running into millions of naira. As recent as September 2023, a group of bandits invaded the female hostels the Federal University Gusau and about 7 female students were kidnapped are still being held in the forest and ransom are demanded.
Female students are now regarded as soft targets for these criminals.
These attacks are too numerous to mention.
Northern Nigeria is ordinarily known for its strict culture and tradition where some restrictions are placed on the female child in terms of seeking western education if not for recent awareness and orientation that a female child can also achieve her potential if given the opportunity.
Sadly, the Nigerian state appears helpless to tackle this monster that has festered too long in the political trajectory of Nigeria.
However, the consequences of kidnapping and banditry on the girl child’s education in Northern Nigeria are deeply concerning and multifaceted. These security challenges have had far-reaching consequences on the region’s educational system and specifically on the ability of many young girls to access and pursue education.
Firstly, the threat of kidnapping and banditry creates a climate of fear and insecurity, leading to decreased school attendance. Parents are understandably worried about the safety of their children and are often reluctant to send their daughters to school. This fear is particularly magnified for girls due to concerns about their vulnerability to violence and abduction.
Secondly, the abduction of schoolgirls by bandits or extremist groups not only traumatizes the victims but also creates an atmosphere of terror and discouragement among other girls and their families. Such incidents instill a sense of fear and uncertainty, causing many parents to withdraw their daughters from school altogether. This disruption in education poses long-term consequences as it perpetuates a cycle of illiteracy and limited opportunities for girls in the region.
Furthermore, prolonged absence from school due to security concerns can result in learning gaps and educational setbacks. Girls who are unable to attend classes regularly struggle to keep up with the curriculum, leading to lower academic performance and a higher likelihood of dropout. This lack of education severely hampers their chances of achieving their full potential and contributes to the perpetuation of gender inequality.
Additionally, the targeting of girls’ schools sends a dangerous message of discrimination and suppression. Education is a fundamental right for all children, and the deliberate targeting of girls’ education sends a regressive message that seeks to marginalize and restrict their opportunities. This not only violates their rights but also hinders the overall development and progress of the society as a whole.
Addressing the consequences of kidnapping and banditry on girl child education requires a multi-faceted approach. It involves strengthening security measures to ensure the safety of schools and students, raising awareness about the importance of education, and working closely with communities to rebuild trust and confidence in the education system. Providing safe learning environments and increasing access to education for all girls, including those in remote areas, is crucial in combating the negative consequences of these security challenges.
It is important the Nigerian government, as well as international organizations and communities, to collaborate in implementing strategies that prioritize the protection of girls’ education. By addressing the root causes of kidnapping and banditry, investing in quality education, and empowering girls, we can strive towards a more inclusive and equitable society that values the education and well-being of all children, regardless of gender or geographical location.
Saliu Olanrewaju Lah is a freelancer and an advocate of good governance writes from the ancient city of Ilorin.