How safe are Nigerian school children?
Three school children were kidnapped from their school dormitories, when armed gunmen stormed their hostels at around 8pm on Monday evening. The incident, which took place at the Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School, a private secondary school in the Ikorodu area of Lagos state Nigeria, is the second of such occurrences within the span of a month. The first took place late in January this year and was unsuccessful because the kidnappers were repelled by the school’s internal security forces. The kidnappers are suspected to be former oil pipeline vandals, who have now acquired a taste for kidnapping. Presently, they are demanding for a combined ransom of N100 million from the parents of the three children.
The Nigerian education system is made up of both privately-owned and government-owned schools. The general consensus in Nigeria is that the high-income and middle-income earners send their children to privately-owned schools because they can be monitored and taken care of better, due to the fact that the parents or guardians pay significantly higher fees. The low-income earners send their kids to government public schools, indirectly ascribing all responsibility for the kids’ educational upbringing to the government, including their security, fees and books.
However, nowadays it appears that there is no difference between the private and public schools, at least in the matter of security. The fact that the kidnapped students are girls further emphasises how endangered young girls are in the country. After more than 200 Nigerian public boarding school girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in 2014, common sense should have led the government to guard schools around the country with armed security personnel, to prevent a recurrence of the incident. But no, not in Nigeria.
Likewise, private schools are expected to hire private security companies to keep their schools safe, or at least ask for support from the government, especially schools with boarding facilities but, it seems Nigeria exists in a parallel universe. Private schools do their best to keep the children safe as there have been occurrences where family members were restricted from picking up a child from day schools without prior consent from the parents or photo identification. But it seems that is where the alertness ends. Like these children’s kidnapping has shown, private boarding schools in the country are not safe anymore.
Nigeria has the world’s highest number of out of school children (10 million kids) and that number is set to increase over the course of the next few years. One of the possible outcomes for this new problem will involve many parents withdrawing their children from schools, just to keep them safe. It is already happening in the north of the nation, where Boko Haram has razed down schools, though the federal government seems to be gaining control of the insurgency. Now, this may be turning into a real problem for the south of the nation as well, starting from the commercial hub that is Lagos, with this new threat presented by former oil militants. Does the country not value its younger generation? Some of the students at the scene of yesterday’s crime, who escaped kidnapping, are already begging their parents to let them leave school, according to news reports. While others are scared of going to school for fear of being kidnapped. A Lagos teenager who granted French media outlet, AFP, an interview last week claims her greatest fear of going to school “is kidnapping.”
When school shootings became a regular occurrence in American schools, policemen were despatched to schools in the country. Seeing policemen patrol the corridors of schools in the United States is becoming a regular occurrence now. Perhaps, the Nigerian federal government can adopt a program like that. What is clear though now is that the government has to do more to prevent little children from being the pawns of criminals and terrorists within the country.