No Hope of Schooling for Children Displaced by Terrorism in Northern Nigeria
By Emmanuel Audu
Walking shoulder to shoulder along the popular Oja-Oba road in Akure, a city in South West Nigeria, Ibrahim Saheed,8, and his younger brother, Audu Saheed,6, go in search of other destitute children until their parents, whom they left since morning, return.
For the Saheed family, the day is monotonous; they arrive at a spot in Oja-Oba road in the morning, disperse to different locations to beg for money and come back to Oja-Oba road later in the evening.
Ibrahim and Audu have dreams; Ibrahim wants to be a lawyer while his brother, Audu hopes to be a journalist. In their hometown, Machi in Katsina State, before moving to Akure, they were enrolled in Dauedelu Primary School.
However, Audu was forced to drop out of school in class 3 while Ibrahim dropped out in class 2. They told this reporter they had to leave school because their uniforms were worn-out, and their parents could not afford basic learning materials including exercise books.
There was still hope that they could go back to school but the hope was dashed sometime in 2020 when Audu’s father struggled to meet the family’s needs due to incessant terrorist attacks. Eventually, the family had to leave their homes.
Their father, Umaru Saheed could not remember the specific attack that led to their relocation but the incessant onslaught on their village led to the eventual relocation of Audu’s father, three of his four wives and seven of his 19 children,
Since their relocation to Akure, Audu and Ibrahim never went back to school. They join their parents in begging for alms.
“I was attending primary school but since we have moved down here, I had not seen what a classroom looks like. I have visited more than three states with my father to beg for money,” Audu said in Hausa.
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Alimat wants to be a nurse 6-year old Alimat Ahmed dropped out in class 2 when her residence in Shafa, Borno State, was attacked by Boko Haram terrorists in December 2020.
According to the Global Conflict Tracker 2021 report, terrorist activities have led to the death nearly 350,000 people in North-East Nigeria and rendered over 310, 000 refugees in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Nigeria. Boko Haram terrorist group have claimed responsibility for several terror attacks, including the kidnapping of 276 female students in Borno state in 2014.
Unlike Audu whose father still has his sight intact, Alimat’s father is blind. To make ends meet, she has to take him around to beg for alms and run errands thereafter.
Alima was four, when her parents moved to Akure and since then, she has not been to school.
“We left in December, 2020 when our community, Shafa, was attacked by bandits on Boxing Day,” Alimat said in her local language.
She said all her father’s effort to enrol her back to school proved abortive as the money they make from begging is not enough to eat, not to talk of school.
“Sometimes, we don’t make up to one thousand naira while in some cases, the good Samaritans only gave us food.”
According to a recent assessment by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), about 20 million children and youths living in Nigeria are not in school.
The report shows that Nigeria has over 20 million out-of-school children around the world.
We don’t have money to enroll them in school
Alimat’s father, Saliu Ahmed told this reporter that since he had been displaced from his hometown, he now lives from hand to mouth.
“My child wants to go back to school to fulfill her dream as a nurse, but there’s no money to enroll her in school,” he said with a disappointed face.
Mr Ahmed,who was a farmer in Shafa, narrated how his house and his farm was destroyed by terrorists. He pleaded for help to resettle from the government and philanthropists.
Corroborating Alimat’s father, Umaru Saheed, 40, a mechanic turned beggar, said hardship made him relocate to Akure in search of greener pasture.
“I thought I would be able to afford their basic learning materials but the reverse is the case,” Mr Umaru said referring to his children.
Mr Umaru, who’s on a wheelchair, said poverty turned all her nine children in Akure to beggars, calling on the government to help him to enroll the children back to school.
“I have nineteen children, four wives, nine of my children, three wives are here and the remaining ten are in Katsina with their mother—things have not been going well for them as well. They are not in school,” he said.
Mr Umaru maintained that he would be off the street with his family, if he could secure a job.
We’re Prohibiting Hawking By School-age
The Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, said his administration would Prohibit street hawking by school-age children to curb child abuse—reduce number of out of school in the state.
Mr Akeredolu through the chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Victor Olabimtan disclosed this, in June 2022 at the inauguration of the 18 newly appointed local government education secretaries.
He said his led administration would no longer tolerate street hawking and selling by children of school age with a bill sent to the state House of Assembly to that effect.
Reacting to findings in this report, SUBEB Permanent Secretary, Akinbamidele Akinnagbe, said the Ondo state government is aware of the situation and is making an effort towards it.
“The issue of out-of-school children is a societal thing and am happy you’re also conscious of it and government is also aware of this situation and we’re making effort towards it and some of the things the government is doing includes making the school environment conducive for learning and we are equally sensitizing parents, public and various forum” he said.
He added that the enrollment drive of the state government is targeted at taking away children from the street to the school, reiterating that the government will not rest until out of school children return to the classroom.
Opemipo Johnson of the Child Rights Vanguard, a Non-Governmental Organization(NGO) that advocates for child’s rights laments the continuous increase of out-of-school children in the state stressing that the government needs to step up policies that will encourage education in the state and the country at large.
“I always feel bad each time I drive around the town and see children hawking instead of them in the classroom, the numbers keep increasing and it’s becoming more worrisome”. Mrs Johnson said.
She appreciated the Ondo state government for its plans in eradicating street hawking and the proposed bill to that effect.
Mrs. Johnson revealed that over 40 children have been returned back to school since the inception of the organization begging for more support and assistance from well meaning Nigerians in order to do more.
“Over the last five years we have been returning children back to school as part of the project of the organization and the children have been doing tremendously well, but we have limited resources to do more.” Mrs Johnson said.
“Support for this report was provided by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID Africa) and it is made possible through funding support from The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).”
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