By Sola Ojo (Kaduna) and Olanrewaju Lawal (Birnin Kebbi)

There is no gainsaying the fact that the worsening security situation in the country has severely set back educational development in the North.

Hitherto, there was a wide gap between the South and the North in terms of educational preparedness, attainment, but that gap has been marginally widened due to activities of criminal elements.

In Kaduna State, this unhealthy development has led to some schools being shut down before the general delay in resumption based on security advice, especially those schools that are located at the outskirts of towns.

Before the bandit attacks and kidnapping of students of Engravers College, Chikun; College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, Igabi; Greenfield University, Chikun; Faith Academy and Bethel Baptist High School, Damishi, Chikun, there was palpable fear among parents, staff and students in several schools which led to shutting down of some of them. It was gathered that the decision to shut down the schools was based on intelligence provided by security sources.

As it is today, the fate of students of the schools shut down because of insecurity is worrisome. While some have been relocated to safer schools, others like those in Bethel Baptist high school whose 31 students are still in the captivity of the abductors were forced to defer writing the ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) and the National Examination Commission Senior School Certification Examination (NECO-SSCE) concluded in August.

Commenting on the development, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Joseph Hayab, who also has a son in Bethel Baptist High School,  noted that when the schools were shut down, the state government promised that the military would flush out bandits terrorising the state, but asked schools to reopen without clear evidence of having neutralised the bandits.

His words: “What we are experiencing now is a new and powerful onslaught by the bandits. Students of Bethel Baptist High School could not write both WAEC and NECO because not all of them have been released by bandits, who invaded their hostels three months ago. The JSS3 students were able to write the Kaduna State Quality Assurance exam at a facility of the Kaduna CAN in the heart of the town.

“The management of Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna, has reached out to WAEC and NECO about the unfortunate situation their students have found themselves in.

“We are hopeful that we will get a positive response from the two examination bodies, but for now, our prayers and efforts are to see the remaining 31 students return home without delay.”

He added that schools in areas that have high security risks have relocated to safer areas. 

“But another truth here is this: if bandits could break into military institutions like NDA without any serious resistance, where then can we say is safe?

“As an association, on behalf of the Christian community in Kaduna State, we are not sleeping; we are up and doing for our children’s safe return and to have a place conducive for them to continue learning whenever they come back.

“Despite the inconsistency of government decisions and policies, parents and students are anxious to be back to school. Many parents are aware of the danger of a lack of good education for their children in this 21st Century and are ready to go the extra mile to remedy any loss.

“The children too are bored at home and will prefer school life rather than stay at home without food and other things that may attract their attention,” Hayab said.

A teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity told Sunday Sun that though schools have been directed to reopen, some of them were yet to begin academic work properly because the announcement came too sudden.

According to her, the parents are still not confident to release their children to return to some of the schools, when their security cannot be guaranteed, especially such schools that do not have good perimeter fences and enough security personnel.

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“We are here in the school, but we are yet to commence any serious academic work because our students are not fully back. Their parents are not sure of their safety.

“So, we are contacting them to know their stand. We don’t want to leave some of them behind in our school curricular because that will not be in their best learning interest, especially now that the state government has cancelled the third term so they can match up with their mates across the country,” she explained.

A student, who was relocated from one of the schools in the outskirts of Kaduna to a safer school in the heart of Barnawa, Kaduna, expressed mixed feelings over his inability to write his external examinations in a familiar school environment devoid of noise and other distractions he’s now coping with.

“I was tired of staying at home though, but I would have loved to write these exams in my school which is located in a quiet place along Kachia road.

“My school was shut down even before the attacks on two schools in the same area. Even here, we are not writing the exams with peace of mind. We are still in fear. Our brothers and sisters are still in the hand of kidnappers since three months. Once I remember them, it has a way of disturbing my head,” he said.

Another student, Ibrahim Sabo said: “You know you don’t compare an environment where you have been schooling for close to six years to a completely different environment where you are a newcomer.

“In my case, bandits sacked us from our house in Rigachikun. Then they sacked us from our schools. But, I thank God, my parents and the management of my school provided us with this alternative. I pray I clear my result so I can attend a university in a place a bit far away from here.”

But, as far as the Kaduna State education authorities are  concerned, efforts are ongoing to secure all residents as schools were directed to resume with a condition that they resume in secured places and make proper security provisions for their students and staff.

The Kaduna State Ministry of Education in a circular in the state also cancelled the third term so that the state can catch up with the national education calendar where all schools, both private and public, begin the first term.

Commissioner for Education, Dr Shehu Usman Muhammad, directed all administrators and proprietors of public and private schools and other learning centres, including Islamiya and Madrasas to set up school-based security committees to complement the government’s efforts.

The commissioner urged all schools management to ensure safety in their schools and directed them to comply with Safe School Learning Initiatives as directed by the Federal Ministry of Education.

The commissioner, however, directed members of the School Security Committee to ensure proper monitoring of security apparatuses in place and maintain prompt security alertness – using the dedicated phone lines in case of any security threat.

In Kebbi State, due to the attack on the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, on June 17, this year by bandits, the government relocated the senior secondary school students due to write the WASSCE to a secondary school in Yauri town, Yauri Local Government Area of the state.

In the abduction saga, notorious bandits kidnapped about 100 students and five teachers from Federal Government College, Birnin-Yauri in Yauri Emirate. Since then, the school has remained closed while students of the school remained at home.

However, the Kebbi State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Alhaji Muhammad Magawatta Aliero in an interview with Sunday Sun disclosed that all the students of FGC Birnin Yauri who were due for WAEC and other Senior School Certificate Examination were relocated to a secondary school in Yauri town to write their examinations.

 “For now, these students are writing their examinations in a secondary school in Yauri town and other schools in the neighbouring towns like Ngaski and Warrah. So, that is what I can tell you. Apart from the FGC Birnin Yauri, other schools are working,” he said.