The United Nations Children’s Fund in Nigeria says at least 1 million Nigerian children could drop out of school this year due to insecurity, as armed groups continue to target schools in the north of the country in a series of mass kidnappings for ransom.
UNICEF Nigeria said on Wednesday that the country had recorded only 20 school attacks this year and 1,436 students had been abducted. The report further showed that 1 16 students were killed and 200 were missing.
As schools across the country begin to open for the new semester this week, more than 37 million students are expected to return to school.
But officials said there was a low turnout in attack-prone areas, such as the north-central Kaduna state. Authorities in the capital postponed the resumption date to September 1 without any reason.
In a UNICEF report, country representative Peter Hawkins called on Nigerian authorities to prioritize school safety, saying sending their children to school for fear of abduction was unacceptable to the community.
Emanuel Hwande, a spokesman for the Nigerian Teachers Union, said the government must take responsibility.
“We want the government to take steps that will ensure that security agencies respond appropriately to kidnappings, abductions where we see them actively involved, to actively involve such criminal elements,” Huande said.
Criminal gangs seeking ransom began targeting schools in northern Nigeria late last year. Hundreds of schools have been closed, Amnesty International says.
Florence Ulo, a resident of Abuja, is afraid of sending her five-year-old son back to school.
“Even though I’m in that city and of course my son’s school is not far from home and they have security, but I still don’t feel comfortable,” he said. “The thought that they could go to a school and kidnap children is very frightening for a parent.”
Last year, the coronavirus epidemic reversed the school calendar and disrupted the education of millions of Nigerian students. Hawkins of UNICEF said: “The situation has been exacerbated by the additional challenge of school closures due to insecurity across the country.”
He said that countries around the world, including Nigeria, have taken steps to provide distance education, not reaching out to many students.
He said UNICEF on Thursday joined a global “digital fridge” of social media in protest of the global children’s inability to access classrooms, and if mitigation measures are not implemented, the World Bank estimates the loss of US 10 10 trillion over time for the current generation of students worldwide.