Schools or Snares

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

As far as words can weave comfort, the word ‘school’ is a master. Everything about it speaks not just of  a place but a process through which ignorance is defanged and the power that knowledge breeds assimilated for empowerment.

From time immemorial, the power that education gives in enabling those subservient to its instruction to take charge of their minds for good is without parallels. Thus, quality education has always shown its enduring validity as one of man`s most precious gifts. It is the reason why any society that seeking   genuine advancement must be ready to fortify the structures that support its schooling and school systems.

In Nigeria, for many parents, the moment a child is weaned, thoughts and actions begin to coalesce about how to send them to school. Many children end up beginning school even if many are forced to discontinue along the way.

For those that continue, they invariably find a shining path to the future that is at least devoid of the pangs of illiteracy. For those that discontinue along the line, they find something to hold on to even when they can no longer go to school.

So, for many children, school is about safety, sustainable knowledge and the invaluable opportunity to access opportunities that aid their development in all ramifications as well as opening to them the path to a brighter future.

Recently, however, it has become extremely disturbing that in Nigeria, many pupils and students can no longer feel safe when they go to school and while they are in school. That this   grievous problem afflicts schools at all levels of the education system forbodes a future that is frightening.

The reasons for the uncertainty that now plagues schools in Nigeria   are many and the danger rises both from within and outside the schools. Firstly, there is insecurity.

In 2014, Boko Haram terrorists stormed a secondary school for girls in Chibok, Borno State and made away with hundreds of girls. More than seven years have gone by and some of the girls are yet to return home to their heartbroken families.

When the intrepid terrorists saw that the response of the Giant of Africa to the abductions in Chibok was tepid as best, they struck another school in Dapchi, Yobe State and helped themselves to the number of students they wanted. The pattern has since been repeated in many hapless schools across Nigeria`s North to bring education to its knees in a region that was educationally disadvantaged even before Boko Haram reared its extremely ugly head. The terrorists have also ensured that countless schools in the region have been razed and the educational trajectory of many innocent children twisted forever.

If it was just Boko Haram, it would have been devastating enough, but bandits which have come to pose equally grave security challenges to Nigeria have recently refined the art   storming schools and kidnapping students. Sometime last year, over a hundred students of a school in Tegina, Niger State spent close to three months in the den of bandits. They were only released after their terrified families paid millions of naira in ransom.

The pattern has since been reprised in schools in Kaduna State to further complicate a full- blooded crises of education.

Recently, another form of threat, this time, rising from within schools themselves has engaged the attention of Nigerians. From Abuja to Lagos, parents send their kids to schools only to have corpses inexplicably returned to them. Toddlers are flogged to their deaths by frustrated teachers who are predictably poorly remunerated and would rather be elsewhere.

Even in institutions of higher learning, decrepit structures give way to send students plunging to their deaths even as ASUU embarks on another of its routine strike actions while citing the treachery of the government of the day. In the Federal Capital Territory, pupils of some public primary schools have been at home for close to a month as a strike action sees precious time bleeding away. The signs are indeed ominous.

Nigeria can continue to huff and puff about poverty eradication and development, but at the end of the day, it is quality education which can be profoundly alchemical that can alter the countrys march to doom and transform its national life and outlook. Quality education has the power to confront Nigerias difficulties at their nests which is in the mind of Nigerians.

But for quality education to do what it must do, the safety of the schools where it is imparted must be unfailingly guaranteed. There is no other way to this, neither is there a shorter route.

Until every pupil and student in Nigerian can feel safe while going to school, while in school and while returning from school, Nigeria will continue to live on a knife`s edge.

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

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