The United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) has revealed that at least one million Nigerian children could miss school this year as the new term begins due to a rise in mass school kidnappings and insecurity.
UNICEF made this known in a statement on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.
The statement noted that schools have become targets for mass abductions for ransom; especially in northern Nigeria by armed groups. Such kidnappings in Nigeria were first carried out by jihadist group Boko Haram; then later its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province.
However, the tactic has now been adopted by criminal gangs known as bandits operating largely in the North.
UNICEF says, so far, there have been 20 attacks on schools in Nigeria this year; with more than 1,400 children abducted and 16 dead. Further, the agency reveals that that more than 200 children are still missing.
“Learners are being cut off from their education; as families and communities remain fearful of sending children back to their classrooms; due to the spate of school attacks and student abductions in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
More than 37 million Nigerian children are due to start the new school year this month, UNICEF said. An estimated eight million have had to wait for more than a year for in-person learning after schools were closed due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
It added that a number of northwestern states have tried to curb the spate of abductions; banning the sale of fuel in jerry cans; as well as the transport of firewood in trucks in order to disrupt gangs who travel by motorbike and camp in remote places.
Also, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the start of the school term has been pushed back to an unusually late date without explanation, after schools in nearby states were targeted by kidnappers seeking ransoms.