Kaduna and the graveyard of students

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

To educate a country is to put that country on the path to enlightenment and sophistication.

For Nigerian undergraduate students, hours have since become days and days months since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) downed tools to send them to their homes from where they have watched on as perverse politicking has shown that Nigeria is anything but broke to pay their disgruntled lecturers.

It took no time after terrorism reared its ugly head in Nigeria in 2009 for it to become apparent that education was under attack as much as the Nigerian state. Boko Haram, Nigeria`s pioneer terrorist group, from the beginning made no secret of its distaste for western education. The nature and targets of the attacks have since confirmed this.

For more than a decade, ruthless terrorists, many of them spawned by Northern Nigeria`s educational disadvantage, and left with no modicum of proper education to temper their savagery, have continued to target schools, students and teachers.  When the 2014 abduction of hundreds of school girls in Chibok, Borno State, rattled the world awake over the terrorist emergency springing up from the Giant of Africa, the handwriting appeared on the wall. A school in Dapchi was attacked shortly after. Same fate was to befall schools in Kankara, Tegina and   a handful of other schools all over the the North where Nigerian students have been forced by events to question their future.

However, since 2021, it is Kaduna State that has become a favourite stomping ground of the terrorists. That schools there have been disproportionately targeted distills a bitter irony for Nigeria`s “Center of Learning”.

In March 2021, armed gunmen attacked the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Afaka and abducted about 39 students. They were only released more than a month later and of course only after ransom had been paid.

In May 2021, sixteen students of Greenfield University were snatched from their school in Kaduna. It took more than two months, the deaths of five of them and millions of ransom for the last student to be released.

In July 2021, about 53 students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna were stolen from their school and held for months. The Nigerian Baptist Convention had to spend about 250 million naira to secure the release of the students.

Now, lightning struck yet again in Kaduna. On May 31,2022, bandits besieged the Birnin Gwari highway, in the Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Of course, as is now a tradition, some persons were abducted and about eight vehicles reduced to ashes.

Among the victims were students who were travelling to write exams for the School of Health Technology in Makarfi which exams were scheduled to hold at the Kaduna State University in the metropolis.

This latest attack in Kaduna comes amid the months-long captivity of more than six dozen passengers whose only offence was boarding a train from Abuja to Kaduna on March 28,2022.

It does beggar belief. It beggars belief that Kaduna State remains so insecure with the authorities and the state and federal levels unable to do much about it. Security personnel in the state have also been hit hard by the insecurity. On April 3, 2022, about 10   Nigerian soldiers were killed when bandits attacked their military base in Birnin-Gwari.

When the State Governor received the security report for the first quarter of the year, his observations were quickly woven into the litany of lamentation he has continued to recite for years. Yet, the state continues to burn. But not in the jaundiced judgment of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund which   recently chose Kaduna State as one of the venues for the conduct of its Overseas Scholarship Scheme interviews while avoiding the entire Southeast for being insecure.

It does not require divination to see that schools in Kaduna State are anything but safe at the moment. Neither are the students who school in them. If anything, they have become the favourite hunting grounds of   terrorists who continue to patronize them in service of their iniquitous business of kidnapping for ransom.

In March 2019, Nigeria ratified the Safe Schools Declaration which is an intergovernmental political commitment that provides countries with the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools and universities from attack during times of armed conflict.

However, the experiences of schools and students alike in the Southeast continue to   show that the ratification was yet another exercise in ritual grandstanding as schools and students in Nigeria`s Northeast and Northwest continue to be peppered by insecurity.

Securing students is about securing the future and Nigeria must act quickly and decisively.

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

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