Naomi Ibrahim opened a school in Kaduna seven years ago, after attacks by Boko Haram militants forced her to leave her hometown in Nigeria’s Borno state.
The aim of the new school opening was to help conflict-affected children get a basic education, but he said a wave of violence and mass kidnappings threatened his work and kept students away from school.
“There are (children) from Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and other places. We can only pray, God keeps us safe,” said Naomi Ibrahim.
Authorities at a local school said only 50 of the roughly 120 students had resumed school for the new school year. The school is not fenced off, which means security is not guaranteed.”
Kaduna is one of the states hardest hit by the mass kidnappings of students that began in northern Nigeria late last year. Since December, the government has reported that more than 1,000 schoolchildren have been kidnapped from schools in the region.
Kidnappings are usually carried out by criminal gangs who demand a ransom from the victim’s family.
To stop the problem, Kaduna state authorities closed schools last July but reopened them this month, arguing the situation had improved.
Community leader Abu Mohammed agreed.
“Actually there is an increase in terms of security and attention from the government. Why? Because the government has called on all security forces and they are all gathered here in Kaduna. They have been looking for bandits in the forest,” he said.
But Aishatu Musa says the fear that bandits could kidnap her children from school has not gone away.
“I am afraid of what is happening now. That’s why I don’t want my children to go to school yet,” said Aishatu.
UNICEF estimates that one million Nigerian children could lose their education due to security concerns.
The agency estimates Nigeria has the largest number of out-of-school children in the world, at around 13.2 million. That figure could actually be higher, said UNICEF education manager in Nigeria, Rudra Sahoo.
“In May, June and July, there were regular attacks mainly in northern, central and northwestern regions of Nigeria. As a precautionary measure, 11,000 schools were closed during that time. Now schools are reopening, but the fears in the minds of parents are still not gone,” he said.
For now, schools such as those run by Naomi Ibrahim, will remain open and continue learning in the classroom, although there is uncertainty as to whether it is safe to do so. [lt/ka]