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Kaduna: Merging Schools Not Enough

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Kaduna and other north west states of Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto, have been bearing the brunt of banditry. Across these states, especially the rural and other hard-to -reach areas, communities have been under the control of bandits.

In reality, activities of these terrorists have impacted negatively different areas including outright interruption of schools through abduction of pupils and staff as witnessed when 135 students from the LEA Primary and Junior Secondary School, Kuriga, Chikun Local Government were abducted.

Owing to abduction of school children, kidnapping and other crimes perpetrated largely by bandits, Kaduna state is witnessing a sharp decline in enrolment of pupils into schools.
For instance, the state witnessed a dramatic drop in enrolment from 2,111,969 in 2021/2022 academic session to 1,734,704 in 2022/2023 session.

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This sharp and indeed, worrisome decline is coming at a time the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said Nigeria has over 18million children out of school.

According to the agency, with 10.2 million primary school-age children and an additional 8.1 million at the junior secondary level out of school in the country, Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children globally.

We are talking of a nation where only 63 percent of primary school age children regularly attend school. Enrolment, retention and completion rate in Nigeria, especially in the north, is pitiable.
Records from UNICEF suggest that less than 50 percent, that is about 2.4 million of the 5.9 million children who commence Primary school annually in Nigeria continue to the conclusion of Junior Secondary. And there are different factors responsible for this.

Only recently, while lamenting the sharp decline in school enrolment rate in the Kaduna state, Governor Uba Sani hinted of moves by his administration to relocate 359 schools from terrorist-infested areas and merge them with other schools in safe places.

“To ensure that the education of our children in conflict-prone and terrorists-infested areas is not interrupted, we have commenced the merging of 359 schools with those in safe locations,” the governor said.

Plausible as this approach may sound to Governor Sani, it clearly amounts to postponing the doomsday. The school merger policy is at best a temporary measure which suggests also that the government is overwhelmed by the activities of these terrorists.

Relocating schools from terrorist-infested areas instead of going after them with all the might of the government is a defeatist ideology that depicts the government, with all the apparatus at its disposal, as being weak or incapable of ending this menace.

Can one be right to assume that the government has surrendered those so-called bandits-infested areas to the bandits? Is that the intent? If not, why outrightly relocate schools from these areas? What happens to the residents, some of whom may not be attending schools? Are there plans to relocate them too?

The state is dealing with people who have made life and living difficult for law-abiding citizens. Not only have they made going to school impossible, their activities have negatively impacted farming and food production. Does the school relocation and merger policy cover farm relocation too?

What every responsible government must do-and we know Kaduna state government is one, is to launch a frontal attack on these terror elements since their hiding place is known as suggested by government's repeated reference to ‘bandit-infested areas'.

Measures like the one contemplated by Governor Sani say a lot about the government's seriousness to dislodge these terrorists. If not, how can one explain a situation where the government is planning to move schools from known bandits' infested areas instead of going after them?
The fitting thing for the state government to do is to embark on a renewed onslaught against these criminals and ultimately do all it takes to enforce the safe school initiative.

Merging schools in the face of humongous infrastructure decay as currently witnessed in most schools, will not guarantee a favourable learning environment for our children and may not address the seemingly intractable menace of out-of-school children.
It is reported that no fewer than 1,500 schools in about eight local government areas of Kaduna lack fences. The statistics about schools that lack other basic infrastructures including teaching and learning materials in the state are also alarming.

To address the challenge of low enrollment in the midst of a high number of out-of-school children, the government must boost the safe school initiative while bringing schools closer to the children. Merely relocating and merging schools is not the permanent solution.


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