Going to School in Northern Nigeria Still Risky—Human Rights Watch

April 12, 2024
Human Rights Watch

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has expressed concerns over the safety of schoolchildren in the northern part of Nigeria despite the introduction of the Safe School Initiative, which aimed to raise funds with an initial $10 million pledge to help make schools safer, including by moving them to safer areas and creating a safe school model for schools across Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, the three states worst hit by the Boko Haram insurgency.

This scheme followed the abduction of about 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School (GGSS) in Chibok, Borno State, by Boko Haram terrorists in April 2014. About 96 of them remain in captivity.

In the last 10 years, according to Save the Children, more than 1,600 children have been abducted or kidnapped across northern Nigeria.

During February and March 2024 alone, bandits kidnapped over 200 children from their schools in Kaduna and Sokoto states.

In a statement, HRW accused the Nigerian government of failing to put in place and sustain crucial measures to provide a secure learning environment for every child.

“For many children across northern Nigeria, the pursuit of an education means facing the constant threat of abduction or kidnapping,” said Anietie Ewang, a Nigerian researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Children should never face the harrowing dilemma of sacrificing their safety for education, but this untenable choice, which echoes the profound insecurity plaguing the country, is thrust upon them daily.”

In a chat with HRW, an expert in security and governance and executive director of the Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative in Abuja, Ms Kemi Okenyodo, said the ongoing school kidnappings, resembling those in Chibok a decade ago, highlight a failure to learn from past experiences, as they are taking place without adequate security infrastructure or intervention from authorities to prevent dozens or hundreds of children being snatched away at once.

Amid the heightened threat of attacks on schools, many have been forced to shut down completely, with more than 20 million children out of school in Nigeria, according to UNESCO, among the highest number in any country in the world.

According to UNICEF, 66 per cent of out-of-school children in Nigeria are from the northeast and northwest, which are among the poorest regions in the country.

To address this, Ms Okenyodo advised the government to involve communities in designing and implementing initiatives to make schools safer to create a sense of ownership, and reduce inefficiency and corruption.

“Now more than ever, the Nigerian authorities should step up efforts to make learning safe for children,” she said, adding that “they should work with communities to adopt rights-respecting measures and put in place adequate financing, systems, and structures to ensure quick, effective, and transparent implementation to ensure that children can learn without being exposed to grave harm.”

A Chibok girl, who was in Boko Haram captivity for over two years and was released with 20 others, but now a 28-year-old university student studying natural and environmental sciences, told HRW that news of school kidnappings brings back memories of her ordeal.

“Whenever I hear that more children have been kidnapped, I feel terrible and helpless,” she said. “We are still not safe… It brings back memories of what happened to me. I can never forget being snatched from my parents and my family for so long. I pray this is not the case for those that are kidnapped.”

Modupe Gbadeyanka

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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