By Victoria Ojeme
Recently Boko Haram abducted and released about 344 students from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara is perhaps, a reminiscence of Chibok Girls abduction of 14th April 2014.
On Sunday, May 7, 2017, 82 of the Chibok of the over 200 abducted schoolgirls were released after negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government.
Yana Galang was visiting Dapchi in northeast Nigeria to offer condolences to parents whose daughters were kidnapped by Boko Haram when people started to shout with excitement.
Her own daughter Rifkatu is still missing nearly six years after she and her classmates were kidnapped from their school in Chibok about 170 miles away.
Galang, a mother of eight, said she had planned to tell the parents to be patient for their girls’ return as she had been.
“When we asked why people were running, they told us that they were expecting their girls, that Boko Haram was bringing them home,” she told Reuters’ Adaobi Nwaubani by phone.
Right in front of us, the militants brought the girls and dropped them and then left.
“Our visit became something else,” added Galang, one of 30 Chibok parents who made the 11-hour trip to Dapchi the previous day to meet with the parents of the missing girls.
Yakubu Nkeki, chairman of the Chibok parents’ association whose niece was abducted at Chibok, described the scene of jubilation after the girls were reunited with their families.
“Right in front of us, the militants brought the girls and dropped them and then left,” he said.
He said some of the girls, aged between 11 and 19, looked “panicked” initially and could barely respond to questions.
“They said that three girls fell (out of the trucks) and into the river on their way to (the) Sambisa (forest hideout of Boko Haram). Two others died in the forest,” said Galang.
She described how she wept watching the parents being reunited with their daughters as she still had no word about the fate of her own daughter.
“I cried seriously,” she said.
“As a mother if my child were to be kidnapped, I will be divested. I will not eat or rest until I am reunited with my child,” Farida Ahmed told WO in Abuja.
She said “Parents who have found themselves in that kind of situation especially when the child is not rescued will carry the pain to their graves It is not a situation to wish even your worst enemy.
“I only hope that the current accusation of a staged kidnapping of children in Katsina is not true. I do not want to believe that a government will be so irresponsible to play with people’s emotions in that way. But if it is true, then the country is hopeless.”
Although some of the school children were later released and others remain missing till date, mass abduction of school children by Boko Haram is not new. Twenty-six girls kidnapped in October 2020 in another town in Katsina were freed after a ransom was paid. They said the kidnappers raped and beat them.
Parents too should feel reassured with the knowledge that when their child attends school, they will be safe in the care of the teachers and the security of the building.
Professor Adebukola Osunyikanmi, of the department of Political Science and Public Administration, Adekunle Ajasin University, and the the proprietress of Mabest Academy in Akure Ondo state, said is difficult to say at the moment the extent and manner of the impact this event will have on the children.
“We have no knowledge, currently of the extent of trauma they have suffered and how each person will react to it. Certainly, it was an event that will leave an indelible mark in their minds. Such a traumatic incident will definitely affect their beliefs and behaviour going forward,” she said.
In an interview with WO, Professor Osunyikanmi said “I think in some ways, the confined nature of schools generally shields students from security challenges. They are not vulnerable to threats that exist out there. It was this assumption that made the Kankara boys’ kidnap quite devastating. In schools, the primary concern is the students’ well-being. The Government and all stakeholders must make the school environment safe for our children. Teaching and learning must take place without fear. Children must have joy as they receive education in our schools.”
Also, Shannon Ward, Save the Children’s Acting Country Director in Nigeria, said the abduction of the school children “could have a deep impact on children not only the boys who were taken, but also the ones who had to flee and hide from gun violence or those who saw what happened.”
“We urge the Government to ensure that Nigerian children have access to safe, quality and uninterrupted education at all levels.”
Also, Akpome Oshevire, a housing security expert in Enugu said that a safe learning environment is essential for students of all ages adding that without it they are unable to focus on learning the skills needed for a successful education and future.
He said “When violence is part of the educational setting, all students are affected in some way. Even though your child may not be the actual victim of violence in school, there is a very good chance that he or she will witness violent acts throughout the educational years. Research continues to illustrate children who feel unsafe at school perform worse academically and are more at risk for getting involved in drugs and delinquency.”
The issue of school safety is a major concern at all levels of government.