In 2014, the Boko Haram attacked Chibok, a community in Borno State, abducting more than 250 schoolgirls.
The Chibok incident sparked global outrage, but previous attacks occurred with little international attention. Earlier, the same year, over 50 schoolboys from Buni Yadi, a town in Yobe State, were killed by suspected Boko Haram militants.
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Since February 2014, northern Nigeria has experienced at least seven high-profile attacks on secondary schools. More than 1,000 school children have been victims of mass abductions by armed groups. While some of these students have been released, a significant number remain in captivity.
Even beyond the most noteworthy kidnapping episodes, Boko Haram has continued to attack schools, abducting students and using them as suicide bombers or marrying off girls as brides to their soldiers.
As a university student, I believe Nigeria clearly needs to do more to protect its children, the country’s future depends on it. The recent abductions are part of a worrying trend that underscores students’ lack of safety in Nigeria. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 13 million Nigerian children are not enrolled in school, more than anywhere else in the world. About eight million of those children are located in Nigeria’s northern states, where violent conflicts spanning more than a decade have exacerbated the situation.
To improve the situation, Nigeria needs to intensify the Safe Schools Initiative established in 2014 in response to the Chibok abductions. Although armed groups have proliferated since its launch, the initiative can be tweaked to meet current realities. Better coordination between state and federal governments would also improve the response to banditry and general insecurity. Part of this strategy should involve the use of early warning and early response systems involving the federal government, state governments, local vigilantes and community leaders. Without decisive action, abductions and the instability they cause will continue to plague Nigeria, holding back the futures of children and the country they will inherit.
Sharon Olatunde, Department of Mass Communication Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State