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Beyond Dapchi: Kaduna parents, pupils demand better security in schools

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Sandals strewn on the premises in the aftermath of the abduction at Government Science and Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / AMINU ABUBAKAR

The news last week of the release of more than a hundred of the kidnapped schoolgirls brought huge relief and joy to millions of Nigerians. The girls were abducted last month when Boko Haram attacked Government Science and Technical School, Dapchi, Yobe State.

Although the Federal Government said no ransom was paid, some analysts insist there was more to the sudden release, raising suggestions the militant sect might have changed tactics in favour ‘profitable abductions’. That, of course, leaves the troubling question: where next?

While Kaduna State is many miles from Yobe, the fear of school children being whisked away by armed militants has nevertheless left many parents worried. Even some students in the state have expressed concern over insecurity in their school premises.

A visit by The Guardian to some schools confirmed that the apprehension is not baseless. At Queen Amina College, Kakuri, a student, Rabi Abba (not real name), and her friend, Hadijah (both Senior Secondary Two (SS2) students, complained that miscreants sometimes jump over the perimeter fence behind the dormitory, in an attempt to steal belongings or intimidate the students.

Rabi said: “Thieves do come in the night to pack our belongings. If we are lucky, when we ring the security bell in our rooms to notify guards, they usually come to our rescue.”

They duo pleaded with the state government to boost security in the school, stop the breach and purge the students of the fear of an invasion.

The Principal Malama Larai Siman, declined to make any comment on the situation, saying she has been directed not to disclose any such information except the inquirer provides evidence that he or she has been granted clearance to obtain such details by the state’s Ministry of Education.

But a reliable source within the school said: “This school is seriously burdened in terms of security. We only have a few security personnel, while other day schools have more security men and women. We have already written to the state government and have been told to exercise patience, as more operatives would be deployed to the school.

“We need more security operatives than day schools. Security in boarding schools should be on a 24-hour basis. We have also informed the authorities that being a female school, while deploying security operatives, women should be included because the need to run random checks in the hostels may arise.”

Also at Maimuna Gwarzo Girls College in Tudun Wada, Kaduna Central, the vice principal, who declined to give her name, said: “I am sorry, we have been ordered not to speak to anyone on security matters or otherwise. Except you have a letter from the Ministry of Education that you have been permitted to speak to us, that is only when we can welcome you. Besides, does the school look like it is short of security men or lacks protection?”

At the Federal Government College, Malali, a co-educational facility, a Senior Secondary One student, Abu Gidado (not real name), said the school is reasonably safe. Another, Maimuna Mohammed (not real name), spoke in the same vein, saying they had never experienced a breach, “because we have enough security officers that work round the clock to protect the school.”

This much was also confirmed by a uniformed security operative: “Security presence in this school is dominant. We have policemen and other agents operating in and around the premises. So, we are okay.”

But given the pattern of abduction of school children by Boko Haram in the past, Mr. Ibrahim Yakubu, a parent, whose two kids attend Government Girls’ Secondary School (GGSS), Kawo (a boarding school), urged schools to heighten their perimeter fences, to protect pupils against incursions by miscreants and sundry elements.

He said: “Some boarding schools have no fences at all, while the fences in some have crashed. So, there is need to beef up security in boarding schools. It is very important that perimeter fences must be of reasonable height. If you go to GGSS Kawo, the design and height of the front part of the fence is all right. But once you venture behind, the whole place is scattered. So, we need watertight security arrangement in boarding schools across the state.

“Even though Kaduna is not like some of those states in the North East, it will be extremely difficult to evacuate such large number of students in a boarding school in Kaduna in case of any eventuality. We should always have it at the back of our minds that preventive measures are far better than rescue missions.”

Asked whether the Dapchi abduction could scare parents from sending their children to school, he said: “As an educated person, that should not discourage one from sending his children to school because whatever would happen would definitely happen.”

He added: “Schools at this point in time need reasonable presence of armed security operatives, including policemen and other agents, who would all join forces to protect the lives of teachers and students.”

Mr. Suleiman Yakubu, another parent, said: “Apart from employing more qualified teachers to facilitate better learning, we want government to improve security in schools by increasing the number of guards in them. What happened in Dapchi must serve as an eye opener to governments at every level.”

The state’s Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Jaafaru Sani, noted that the state government is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of students. He said the government is conscious of current happenings and has been working closely with schools, parents and security agencies to prevent breaches.

Sani said part of measures taken by the government was increasing the height of walls, which surround schools and building fences in those that had none. More security personnel would be deployed to protect more schools, he said.

“I know for quite sometime now, the Kaduna State government has been very proactive on issues of security. We are fortunate to have some very competent and vastly experienced security chiefs, who on a weekly basis advise the state security council on proactive measures to be taken, either to safeguard our schools or other public installations across the state against acts of vandalism by miscreants. So, for our schools, boarding schools particularly, we have to ensure that security is 24 hours,” the commissioner said.

He said contracts have already been awarded for the fencing of schools. “When we heard what happened in Dapchi, Yobe State, we stepped up action, to ensure that such never happens to any of our schools throughout the 23 local councils of the state.”

The commissioner added: “Lastly, we have received a proposal from the state’s Commissioner of Police on how to further improve on this approach.

What I just want to say is that we are conscious of these happenings, conscious of the need to protect the children in our schools, primary or secondary. And we are working with the principals of all our public secondary schools and head teachers and primary school teachers, to ensure that during school hours and at night, all schools are fully secured.”


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