States adopt unusual methods to secure students

Posted by News Express | 8 May 2021 | 699 times

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• Kebbi Engages Local Vigilantes
• FCT PTAs Deploy Cutlasses, Bow, Arrows To Fortify Schools’ Security
• Security Assigned To Schools Don’t Have Weapons To Defend Us, Students Lament
• Benue Students Learn In Fear Due To Absence Of Conventional Security

Worried by rising cases of banditry, attacks on institutions of learning and kidnapping of students and staff, many states, especially in the north, have resorted to various methods to safeguard the institutions and keep students in the classroom.

There have been several attacks on schools and abduction of staff and students by bandits, who made all sorts of demands for ransom before their release, with some killed in the process, in Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Kano, as well as Lagos and Ogun states, leading to closure of some boarding schools and discontinuation of learning by students.

Following persistent attacks on Shiroro and Munya Local Councils of Niger State by bandits, majority of residents of the two councils have fled into safety in Minna, the state capital, where over 3,000 of them have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida Primary School. As a result, the education of their children has been on hold.

Attacks on educational institutions, particularly boarding secondary schools by bandits, which lead to the closure of some boarding schools in some local councils of the state, have created a vacuum in the educational pursuant of the children, according to parents and stakeholders.

Virtually all boarding secondary schools in Shiroro, Rafi and Munya Councils were shut down as a result of bandit attacks, even as the state government has set up a committee comprising stakeholders, security agents, parents and community leaders, to come up with suggestions that would assist it secure the institutions.

However, community leaders in the affected areas have advised government to relocate the students from trouble zones to safer places, especially schools at urban areas, urging it to empower local vigilantes with sophisticated weapons to enable them provide security to schools.

They stated that until adequate security arrangements were put in place, the schools, both boarding and day, would be unsafe for learning.

Suleiman Garba, a community leader in Gurmana ward of Shiroro Council, regretted that despite the efforts of the state government to secure the schools, some criminally minded individuals were denying their children access to education.

Habibu Ahmadu from Kuchi, Munya Council, lamented that all the schools in their area have been shut and parents and children rendered homeless and relocated to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, hoping that one day, the situation would be under control.

Shuaibu Garba, a parent, bemoaned the calamity that has befallen his children, who have been out of school for several months and were not expected back to school anytime soon, as the situation keeps deteriorating by the day.

Fatima Isah, a mother of six, complained that government at all levels have not shown seriousness in the fight against banditry, warning that if care is not taken, children’s education might be crippled for years.

She expressed worry that if urgent steps were not taken to address the lingering security challenges bedeviling their communities, “the future of our children may be dashed. ”

Principal of one of the secondary schools in Rafi Council, who craved anonymity, assured that government was on top of the situation, saying Governor Abubakar Sani Bello was not leaving any stone unturned to ensure peace in the state.

He revealed that government had put in place a committee to work out modalities of reviving schools, adding that the committee comprises stakeholders in the educational sector, the village and district heads and security agencies, including vigilante groups. He assured that very soon, bandit attacks in schools would be a thing of the past.

On their part, some students appealed to relevant authorities to fast track their return to school without further delay, as their counterparts in private schools were already ahead of them.

As part of efforts to curb the security threat to schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), parents, under the aegis of Parents’ Teachers Associations (PTAs), have agreed to engage the services of private security firms to help beef up security around various school premises in the territory.

They have also started to equip the schools, especially private institutions, with cutlasses, bow and arrows to fortify their security capacity.

One of them, Mr. Egbuka Daniel, told The Guardian yesterday in Abuja that this has become necessary to assist government security operatives to protect the school environment and make it safer.

Daniel, who also lives in Bwari Area Council, said: “We have equally agreed with school authorities that children should no longer be released to persons other than their parents after closing hours. Students or pupils will no longer be allowed to come out environment and make it safer.

Daniel, who also lives in Bwari Area Council, said: “We have equally agreed with school authorities that children should no longer be released to persons other than their parents after closing hours. Students or pupils will no longer be allowed to come out from the school premises.”

A second-year student of the FCT College of Education in Zuba, Miss Riskatu Balogun, said the main worries about insecurity in the institution is the inability of government to properly provide sophisticated weapons for all officers attached to schools in the territory.

“Security patrol teams should also be put in place to enable emergency tracking of kidnappers, especially at early mornings and at nights,” she stressed.

On his part, a vice principal in Abaji Area Council, who craved anonymity, charged the Federal Government to wake up to its responsibility by putting an end to the menace, saying: “No matter what anybody thinks he can do, except the government at the centre takes bold steps to end kidnappings and Boko Haram menace, all will continue to appear as wastes.”

In the same token, the FCT administration’s education secretariat has assured the students that their safety in schools cannot be compromised, adding: “We are assuring the general public of the safety of our pupils and students in all schools in the FCT. There is no need for parents and pupils to panic, because our schools are safe from bandits and kidnappers.

“The assurance has become necessary following purported reports that FCT schools have been shut for fear of an impending cases of kidnappings, occasioned by the supposedly influx of bandits that have surrounded FCT neighbouring states.”

Director, Administration and Finance, Mallam Leramoh Abdulrazaq, said schools in the territory, which just resumed third-term session last month, had been running smoothly with daily and intensive monitoring and inspection mechanism already in place by the various departments mandated with such responsibilities.

He said no security breach has been recorded in FCT, even as he debunked some media reports that they have been closed .

Leramoh stressed that in the face of the security challenges, the education secretariat has continued to strengthen its security personnel and surveillance with strict adherence to security tips and ensure conducive learning environment.

He called on parents, guardians and stakeholders not to relent in complementing government’s efforts by sustaining the various safety measures already put in place by the FCT administration, while reminding them that security is everybody’s business.

On December 11, last year Katsina State witnessed a first-of-its-kind abduction of over 300 male students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS) Kankara by gunmen.

Their release some six days later forced the government to close all boarding schools in the state to check reoccurrence. The incident, like several others in some parts of the country, exposed how porous the boarding schools in the country are.

In Katsina, it was gathered that isolated boarding and even non-boarding schools situated in council areas close to the dreaded Rugu Forest are mostly vulnerable to such attacks. The secured ones are those sited in major cities and towns or not too far from major military, Police or related agencies’ units.

As way of securing boarding schools, especially those in rural community, local vigilante group known as Yan Sa Kai, are deployed as guards to complement other security agencies.

Also, the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, recently directed the 45 district heads under the emirate to establish security committees to provide necessary assistance to security agents to enable them discharge their duties effectively, as well as provide information to the traditional rulers on the movement of suspected persons.

On its part, the state government has approved the deployment of dogs to complement the efforts of security personnel attached to boar ding schools across the state.

According to the Commissioner for Education, Dr. Badamasi Lawal Charanchi: “We were advised to deploy these dogs at each school, because they have special abilities to detect intruders faster than human beings in many instances.

“It was an advice from the security agencies and we find it expedient because of the current security situation. Even most of the Police stations and rich men have dogs to facilitate and assist security and the vigilante groups.

“These dogs, when deployed, will alert the students and other security agents in case of any intruder or bandits when they are coming. By their nature or in-built capacity or mechanism and by their performance worldwide, they can smell far away (more) than humans, especially objects and persons.”

On his part, Governor Aminu Bello Masari said his administration has re-enforced the security architecture of the state’s boarding schools before reopening them, saying apart from deploying five security guards at each school, a perimeter fence was erected and a security watchtower constructed in all of the state’s boarding schools.

But the resort to guard dogs has attracted criticism from some quarters. While a group saw it as a welcome development, another said dogs would have little or no impact in keeping gunmen at bay.

Some parents who spoke on the deployment of guard dogs to help man boarding schools described the measure as a “right step in the right direction.” They, however, added that dogs alone might not go a long way in addressing the problem of abduction of students in boarding schools.

A parent, Aminu Katsina, said guard dogs may keep small groups of gunmen at bay, but may not do the same for a large group of gunmen wielding automatic weapons.

“I think the issue of deploying guard dogs to assist in securing boarding schools in the state is a good idea, but the measure may not be enough, because guard dogs will scare away small-time bandits or gunmen; they may have little or no effect on big-time bandits who wield AK-47 or other related rifles.

“Government needs to put other measures in place, in addition to using guard dogs, like employing additional security personnel to man the boarding schools,” he said.

Another parent, Salisu Kofan-Soro, 42, said guard dogs might not do the job if they are not trained for such and may even be subject to food poisoning by gunmen.

Kofan-Soro noted: “It may be difficult for guard dogs to be effective in such situations if they are not trained to do so. Some of our local dogs don’t know friend from foe and may bark at almost anyone they see.

“More so, guard dogs could be given poisoned food to eat, especially when not trained, and may not be at all corners of a school compound unless there are several of them.

“Government and other stakeholders need to look at other ways to address the security problem, like the deployment of modern technology that includes surveillance cameras and so on.”

A public commentator, Danjuma Mohammed, said the deployment of guard dogs may not achieve the desired objective and may he dead on arrival, saying information about the guard dogs was supposed to be made known solely to students and teachers in boarding schools and not for public consumption.

He said making such information public may defeat the purpose it was meant to achieve, as it could lead perpetrators to re-strategise to circumvent the security measure put in place.

But Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Ibrahim Katsina, stressed that deployment of guard dogs would help in the security alertness of boarding schools, adding that such measure is part of government’s multidimensional approach in securing students and staff of such schools.

“Anywhere you deploy a dog, it helps to alert the people of an intending intruder. By the time they see any foreign element, when they start to bark, people will know that something is coming.

“The essence is to reinforce the security architecture by coming up with something to help in the current situation, to involve a multidimensional approach. Anything that would help to be on top of the situation, I think, should be done.

“Most of the schools are exposed, so I think it will enhance the alert system of the school community against intending threats,” he added.

In Kebbi State, the government has engaged the local vigilantes to secure public schools.

Commissioner for Basic Education, Alhaji Muhammad Magawatta Aliero, said the idea is to protect the lives of the students in their respective schools, including non boarding schools, though the state has not experienced any case of kidnapping of students, as government had put in place machineries that would secure them to continue with their normal activities.

He assured that the state’s 300 schools, with 70 boarding school, 123 senior day school and 107 junior schools have been provided with the security, noting: “There is need for other stakeholders to be involved and support the government to ensure sanity returns to the education sector.”

Also speaking, Alhaji Usman Hassan, a retired teacher and educationalist, said the number of students in the classroom would continue falling if government fails to tackled the challenges and secure the live of the pupils.

“Government should stop playing with the kids lives, if they cannot continued with their responsibilities, then let the parents and communities support them,” he added.

When The Guardian visited some secondary schools, including Government Day School, Makera, some students and teachers lamented that schools were not fenced, with structures dilapidated and students sitting on the floor to learn.

In Benue State, students study in fear due to absence of conventional security operatives to protect them. Most institutions in the state are not equipped with security personnel and gargets to secure them, as the usual local security men, without the Police, soldiers or Civil Defence Corps, were guarding those in Makurdi metropolis.

Some parents at St. Gabriel Secondary School and Government College, Makurdi, were worried that attacks on schools being experienced in the north could spill over into the state without resistance. Hence, they called on government to deploy conventional security to all schools to avert any attack.

A few weeks ago, two students of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi were reportedly kidnapped by unidentified gunmen while studying in one of the lecture halls but were later released by their abductors.

Speaking on efforts to secure the schools, Commissioner for Education, Prof. Dennis Ityavyar, said his ministry has set up a committee to look into and forestall kidnapping in its schools, especially boarding schools and those located at borders areas.

On Thursday, critical stakeholders in the state across party lines, including traditional rulers, the clergy, national and state assembly members, as well as past and present leaders, asked Governor Samuel Ortom to immediately commence enforcement of Community Volunteer Guards (Vigilante) Law enacted in 2000 to tame kidnapping and banditry in state and schools.

In response, Ortom immediately, directed the recruitment of volunteer guards across all the kindred, districts and local government areas, who would be empowered to carry arms for the protection of institutions and tame banditry in the state.

The Kano State Government is not leaving taking thing for granted, as it is taking proactive measures against security threats, including attack on schools.

Although the state has recorded few incidents, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje had in February this year, shut 10 public boarding secondary schools, particularly those located at villages bordering neighboring states, for fear of attack.

The over 2,000 students are yet to return to schools to resume second term, as they may have been relocated to other schools, as government is unable to guarantee security in the affected schools.

Reacting to the security situation, Secretary of the state chapter of PTA, Mallam Aminu Tafida, said the association would complement government’s efforts, with plans to recruit local vigilante and deploy them to boarding schools in the state.

Similarly, spokesperson of the state Police Command, Abdullahi Haruna Kiyawa, said that Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) across the state have intensified patrol and surveillance around boarding schools. (Courtesy, The Guardian)


Source: News Express

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