The undeclared war against students, girls
The spate of violence being unleashed on our students in schools, particularly females, has become very alarming and it is time to save the students, from kidnappers, abductors, murderers and rapists. This unfortunate development in a country that talks about God in every nook and cranny is a paradox. In fact, the safety of students in our schools is threatened! More worrisome is the fact that it has moved from students to students; to proprietor against a pupil; and to neighbours against neighbours!
Some recent gruesome cases reported in the media speak to this issue! The missing female student of UNIJOS found dead with eyes plucked out; Sylvester Oromoni, a 12-year-old student who was allegedly bullied by his fellow students and later died in yet controversial circumstances; the alleged kidnap and the murder of five-year-old pupil, Hanifa Abubakar, by her teacher Abdulmalik Muhammed, at a private school in Kwanar Dakatar, in Kano State, who was alleged to have kidnapped the young girl, his pupil, and demanded for a ransom of N6m. According to media reports, Abdulmalik Muhammed killed Hanifa Abubakar despite collecting ransom. What a shame! This is cruel, distasteful, disgusting, disenchanting and the anguish is unimaginable!
Apart from these cases, there have been many others, targeting young girls in particular, which are not reported in mainstream media, nonetheless published on the social media with horrifying details. Anambra police was for instance reported to be investigating the death of another school boy; a former staffer of Federal Medical Centre in Owerri, Imo State has been arrested for attempting to kill a 14-year old boy, son of his neighbour; while a missing mother of two has been found dead with body mutilated and buried but exhumed in Lagos.
This situation raises some questions: Are Nigerian students and pupils trapped in this web of inhumanity created by school teachers, proprietors, and administrators? What future do we have as a nation if school-based violence and criminal activities going on in and around schools are left unchecked?
It is obvious that individuals no longer take humanity as the center of their existence, rather they focus on vanity. This may not be unconnected with the loss of values, worsened by urbanisation, peer pressure and get-rich quick syndrome; not discounting the issue of poor self concept. This is a sad commentary and it is obvious that the country has missed its way! Indeed, some people have gone beyond the minimum threshold of humanity.
The seemingly increasing spate of school-based violence is despicable and a national embarrassment. Does it mean that what is taught in religious organisations does not impact on members’ way of life? In climes where the fear of God, respect and common decency reign, human life is valued. Hence, the alarming trend of school and communal-based violence must be speedily checked because of the huge socio- economic costs on the country not discounting the physical, mental and social impacts. This vile and vicious crime is worrisome and all hands must be on deck to prevent and respond to it as such. The society must face the problem now in order to return to track before it engulfs the nation.
Obviously, the evil fate that is being unleashed on our students, particularly girls, who seem to be the favourite of violent ritual killers, is unimaginable; and the government must rise up to the occasion. The phenomenon of school-based violence will continue to be a concern until it is tackled headlong. For instance, given that murder is a capital offence, which carries death or life imprisonment penalty; there should be a system to encourage people to report incidents to the police and to improve the speed and sensitivity of the processing of cases by the courts. The president, the Inspector-General of Police, the Chief Justice of Nigeria and all other duty-bearers, including state governors, security agencies, traditional and religious leaders, should as a matter of urgency, address this worrisome trend; by ensuring that anyone caught faces the law.
Before approving applications for establishment of schools, the government should do a background check on the owner and board members, scrutinise the application and ensure that it has a business plan showing sources of revenue for running the school and cash-flow projection i.e., sustainability plan to avoid desperation as in the case of Abdulmalik Muhammed. As a matter of fact, government should stop giving approval for the establishment of schools as if the proprietors are opening ‘small shops’. Notwithstanding, school proprietors have personal responsibilities not to lead themselves into crime.
While the Kano State government is commended for prompt action; it must go beyond closing down private schools to doing due diligence on public and private schools to make them safe for learning. Other governors, must rise up to the occasion; and since education is on the concurrent list, the various levels of government should work with ServiCom to define service standards in schools beyond curriculum and infrastructure to include issues in safety and security.
The authorities should develop a blue-print for minimum standards for public and private early child and basic education, secondary and tertiary schools beyond infrastructure, libraries, laboratories, curricula, teaching methodology and teachers’ qualification; to the issue of safety and security.
Apart from developing a framework for the accreditation of schools, the constituted team for school accreditation should not just be extended to include law enforcement agents and law interpreters; rather should include non-state actors such as media, NGOs, religious leader, community leaders and women leaders.
In addition, government should increase the frequency of school inspection and monitoring; and ensure the enforcement of inspection and monitoring exercise reports; publicise the list of accredited schools; and sensitise parents and guardians on what to look out for when enrolling their children in schools.
Again, social censure that is public repudiation of violent behaviours and/or perpetrators of school-based violence and other unwholesome and criminal conduct should be adopted by individuals to reverse the trend. Hence, it is imperative that citizens also assist government and all its agencies in bringing an end to this discrediting act of inhumanity by reporting all suspected cases to the appropriate authorities to ensure that culprits are judiciously brought to book. This will reduce the impunity with which perpetrators have been operating currently.
Waging war against school-based violence, ritual killings and other violent misnomers in the society is a collective responsibility of all Nigerians, necessary in order to transform our society to a place in which equality, respect, and dignity for all reign.