Education is key to development in any country; as a matter of fact education drives all sectors of national development, without which sustainable development can be compromised.
Given the importance of education, it can be given only in a safe and secured environment.
In effect, education and its pedagogies can only be guaranteed in a safe school system where school personnel and learners are at ease physically and emotionally.
Over the years, successive governments have spent fortunes in order for the sector to thrive and be attractive by creating an enabling environment for pupils and students to learn without stress or distraction and for teachers and other school personnel to discharge duties expected of them.
This is to underscore the importance and priority accorded the education sector as a major driver of socio-economic and political development.
All seems to be well and running smoothly until the recent times when the sad incidents of terrorism, insurgency, banditry and kidnapping reared their ugly heads, with the schools becoming centres of violent attacks by miscreants instead of being centres of excellence that they ought to be.
Hardly will a day pass without reports of attacks on schools by bandits abducting students for ransom.
There have been occurrences of this dangerous trend in almost all the states of the North West and North East of Nigeria beginning with the kidnap of school girls in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram insurgents in 2014.
Ever since that time, kidnapping of innocent pupils and students in their school compounds and hostels have become rampant.
These incidents have reached an alarming proportion.
The menace, therefore, must be tackled headlong because of its far-reaching implications on the education sector.
Obviously, the Nigerian school system, especially the primary and secondary schools have never had it so bad as it is presently due to the ceaseless war against it.
Call it “banditocracy” if you like, our school system in the north in particular is under siege, through which teaching and learning is no longer guaranteed and cannot also be provided.
Between December, 2020 and the first week of July, 2021, not less than one thousand school children have been kidnapped and millions of naira paid as ransom.
The latest being the abduction of one hundred and forty students of Bethel Baptist High School, Kajuma in Kaduna state.
To say the least, the Nigerian educational system, with particular reference to primary and secondary sectors, has never had it so bad and never in our history have we lost students to kidnapping as witnessed in the past eight months.
This development portends a bleak future for the entire country, as the effects of school insecurity will sooner than later, reverberate to the entire country in forms of resurgence of crimes in various shades and dimensions.
This is not to say about the collapse that will greet whatever remains of western education in many parts of the north.
As the country continues to witness insecurity in schools, occasioned by the various abductions, many schools that are said to be vulnerable and soft targets for bandits are being closed down and thousands of children will, out of morbid fear and anxiety, drop out.
Similarly, many youngsters will develop poor school-esteem, lack of school going resilience and interest as a result of post traumatic abduction–laden stories of many of their peers who either, their parents paid ransom or were lucky to have escaped from the captivity of bandits.
This in essence means that Nigeria may witness more out-of-school children in some years to come in that part of the country.
Statistics have it that Nigeria has the highest record of out of school children globally.
The number of out of school children is said to be more than ten million.
Unfortunately, school insecurity is more pronounced in the north especially in the north east and west.
While COVID-19 has been curtailed to a great extent, in Nigeria, violence against the school system is alarmingly on the increase.
All these, could culminate into extinction of schools especially in the north if the ugly situation is not halted.
Unfortunately, if the in person school system becomes extinct in the north, our educational system is not ripe and does not have technological infrastructures to run home school systems.
It is worrisome and very disturbing that as at the second week in July, not less than three hundred and forty-eight students, according to UNESCO are still in the dens of bandits.
It would therefore, take a very serious commitment and efficacy for such distraught students and their parents to think of returning to school.
Abductions of school children and personnel should therefore, attract more concerted efforts that will be geared towards restoring the school system back to normalcy.
That can only be guaranteed if the entire country is safe from banditry and insurgency.
Above all, it is instructive for the federal government to review the 2014 policy on safe school initiative with a view to incorporating security education.
Professor Oyesoji Aremu,
University of Ibadan Ibadan