Fears heightened among parents and guardians of pupils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) following the rising attacks on schools in the North.
Although FCT Administration has yet to make any pronouncements on measures to protect students in its schools, Yobe State on Sunday joined Kano, Katsina and Niger states in shutting down some of their institutions of learning.
Our correspondents gathered that order by the Yobe State Government for the immediate evacuation of students from all its boarding schools was not unconnected with intelligence that bandits were planning to kidnap students.
The evacuation order however did not include Senior Secondary School (SS3) students.
Our correspondent who visited Government Girls College, Damaturu, saw many pupils stranded in the premises
Investigation revealed that an armored personal carrier was stationed at the entrance of the school throughout the night to curtail any breach of security.
Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education in the state, Sani Idris, did not respond to the calls and text messages sent to him on the developments.
But some teachers said the notice for the closure of the schools and evacuation of pupils came to them as a surprise.
One of them said: “It is surprising to us but looking at what is going on in some places like Zamfara and Niger states, it could be possible that Yobe is taking measures not to be caught unawares.” Another teacher said since the abduction of 110 students in Dapchi in February 2018 and the killing of students in Buni Yadi, Damaturu, Mamudo and some others were “still fresh in our memory, the state government will not like a repeat of such ugly incident .”
In the FCT where no kidnap has been recorded, parents and guardians said they were worried by the poor infrastructure and porous security around boarding schools, especially in Abuja satellite towns.
Some parents specifically mentioned the Government Secondary School (GSS), Karshi, an isolated institution by bush with no perimeter fence.
Mr. Johnson Ayim, one of the parents, told The Nation that the worst is the alleged occupation of a part of the school land by herdsmen.
Ayim said: “No excuse is reasonable enough to leave a boarding school without a well-secured perimeter fence.
“The excuse that the construction of the school’s perimeter fence project was stalled more than a decade ago is inexplicable. How can anyone also talk encroachment on the school’s land as a reason?
Why are herdsmen allowed to be occupying a part of the school’s land,? Can’t the management of the school and FCT administration see the bushes that surround the school? Are they waiting until an evil day comes before appropriate actions could be taken ?”
A top management staff of FCT Education Secretariat who pleaded anonymity, however, claimed that watertight arrangements have been worked out to beef up security around FCT boarding schools.
He said: “I cannot tell you what we are doing to secure our schools. It is a security issue and we can’t make it public.
“As for GSS Karshi, we are making effort to complete the fence. The contractor had to stop work when someone started claiming ownership of a part of the school property.
“We have made our reports, but due to the bureaucracy in government, nothing has been done.”
Kano had at the weekend closed down its School of Health Technology, Bebeji; School of Nursing, Madobi, and schools of Midwifery, Gwarzo, Gezawa, and Dambatta amid insecurity worries.
A statement by the Information Officer of the state’s Ministry of Health, Hadiza Namadi, had explained that “adequate arrangement has been made for the students to continue with their academic activities.”
On Sunday, Niger State said it had no plans yet to re-open its boarding schools in Rafi, Shiroro, Munya and Mariga council areas closed shortly after 27 students and three staff members of a secondary school in Kagara were kidnapped by bandits. All the abductees were released at the weekend after 11 days in captivity.
Commissioner for Education, Hajia Hannatu Salihu, made this known at a ceremony to hand over the freed students to their families.
She said: “The security challenges facing this state is huge and we have to ensure things are put in the proper place before we will think of reopening the schools.
“We will ensure that SS3 student are kept in touch with to see that they do not miss anything while preparing to write their final examinations.
Salihu urged the freed students not to allow the kidnap incident to discourage or depress them, adding that the state was ready to provide any form of counseling needed by them.
But the Katsina State Government directed the reopening of four out of the 38 boarding secondary schools it shut down from Tuesday.
The reopened institutions are Command Secondary School, Faskari; DSS Secondary School, Musawa; Command Girls Secondary School, Barkiya and Police Secondary School, Mani.
It said students of the remaining 34 boarding schools would operate as day students at schools close to their homes till the security situation normalises.
Commissioner for Education. Dr. Badamasi Charanchi, announced the decisions to reporters after a stakeholder meeting in Katsina.
He said:” Government is determined and concerned about the state of students in boarding schools hence the directives.
“All girls boarding secondary schools should hold on a little until the security situation improves.”
Schools in the state were closed down following the abduction of 342 students of Government Science Secondary School Kankara in December 2020.
By Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja; Justina Asishana, Minna; Augustine Okezie, Katsina and Duku Joel, Damaturu