Back to school – The Nation

  • But, has government done the needful before returning the rescued Dapchi girls to their school?

About three months after the return of 100 abducted students of Government Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State, some of the girls have reportedly been returned to the school. Is this a sign that government and the military are convinced that the security situation there has improved?

We salute the courage of the girls and their parents who agreed to the arrangement despite the trauma they went through during the period.

However, beyond courage and indomitability, government has a responsibility for the security and safety of the girls. It must be noted that one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, is still in captivity, while more than 100 of those taken by the terrorists from the Government Secondary School, Chibok, are yet to be accounted for. A journalist known to have links with Boko Haram, Ahmad Saikida, has claimed that most of the Chibok girls yet to be released have been killed in air strikes by the Nigerian Air Force. The claim has neither been corroborated nor denied by the Federal Government.

Under such a circumstance, we hope the government implemented the recommendations of the Safe Schools Initiative before this audacious move to return the girls to the school. The Federal Government has to be more transparent in dealing with the public, especially when making bold moves like this. The $22 billion raised for the Safe Schools Initiative must be fully accounted for, while activities of the Presidential Committee on North East Initiatives should be regularly published as a means of mobilising critical mass support.

Following the kidnap of the Chibok Girls, the Borno State government ordered the closure of all boarding schools in the state. The move was then hailed as proactive pending when adequate security would have been put in place. The Dapchi school girls are still so young that psychologists must be fully involved in rehabilitating them.  The parents, too, must be fully engaged in decision making because, after the abduction of the Chibok girls in 2014, it was assumed no such thing could happen again. It was assumed that the government had put in place adequate security measures to protect the children. That Dapchi came up at all was indication that government had not taken adequate measures to prevent such abductions. That should not happen again.

Posturing is not the answer to the crisis at hand. The statement by the United Nations that Boko Haram is still active in many parts of the North East is quite instructive and should not be easily dismissed as the international organisation is fed with credible intelligence by major world powers. It is therefore necessary for the Federal Government to consult with critical stakeholders such as the parents, civil society organisations operating in the environment, the state government, local government councils and community leaders in the areas. Only after all have agreed that the children are safe could the school gates be swung open. Lives are too precious to be trifled with.

It must be noted that securing the schools can only be effectively guaranteed within the context of secured towns and territories. The troops should be well armed and encouraged to do their best in ensuring that the terrorists are driven out of the Nigerian territory. It is inconceivable that lives of school girls are secured while ignoring other girls, school boys, other boys, the adults and institutions. An atmosphere of fear and perplexity will only engender social and economic dislocation.

All the stakeholders should put heads together to periodically review the security situation in the North East, if normalcy is to be restored in all facets of lives, including the school system.

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