Seven states in northern Nigeria have shut schools due to the rise in abductions and banditry in the last two months.
According to experts, the development may worsen the number of out of school children in Nigeria which the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) puts at 10.5 million.
This is apart from the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seven states are Yobe, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto.
It was learnt that while some of the states had shut only boarding schools, others shut all schools located in local government areas deemed volatile.
According to figures collated from several reports, at least 768 students have been abducted by bandits within the space of 78 days. The breakdown of the figure include 344 schoolchildren of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katisna on December 11, 2020; 80 pupils of Islamiyya School, Mahuta, Katsina on December 20, 2020; 27 boys at GSS College, Kangara, Niger State on February 17, 2021; and 317 schoolgirls of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, last Thursday who are still in captivity.
Apart from the recent abductions, 112 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok, Borno State in 2014 are still in Boko Haram captivity as well as one pupil from Dapchi, Yobe State, Leah Sharibu.
Reports collated by our correspondent showed that Zamfara is the most affected with all its boarding schools shut till further notice. The Governor, Bello Matawalle, had in response to the abductions ordered the closure of all schools on Friday.
On Saturday, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State ordered that 10 schools located on the outskirts of the state be shut. On Sunday, Ganduje extended the order to five health training institutions in the state.
In Yobe State on Sunday, the state government ordered boarding school students to go home amidst fear of a Boko Haram attack, exempting only SS3 students.
Katsina State, where the Kankara schoolboys were abducted also shut all boarding schools on December 13, 2020. The state, which shares boundaries with Zamfara State, however, announced that its schools would re-open on Tuesday.
In Niger where the Kangara schoolboys were abducted, the governor, Abubakar Bello, shut boarding schools in four local government areas last week.
Sokoto State, which also shares borders with Zamfara State, shut 16 boarding schools along its borders. Some of the affected schools are Government Girls Model Secondary School, Illela; Sultan Muhammadu Tambari Arabic Secondary School, Illela; Gamji Girls College, Rabah; Government Secondary School, Gada; Government Secondary School, Gandi; and Government Secondary School, Goronyo.
Both Kaduna and Jigawa states have had to shut some schools in the last two months due to banditry, according to BBC.
Speaking with our correspondent on Monday, the Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Emmanuel Hwande, said the rising cases of banditry and closure of schools could increase the number of out-of-school children or derail the academic progress of pupils.
He called on the government to improve security around schools.
He said, “When a teacher goes to school and is not guaranteed of his safety, it will affect his performance. Schools being shut down completely will impact negatively on the education sector, the system.
“The number of out-of-school children will continue to rise because parents whose children are back from bandits will begin to think otherwise and will not want them to go to school. The children will then begin roaming the streets and in the future, these children will be recruited into criminal activities.”
UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, had last week expressed sadness over the incessant kidnapping of students, describing it as a gross violation of children’s rights and a horrific experience for children to go through.