“Full text of key note address presented by Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar Njodi at the Annual Conference of the Faculty of Education Bayaro University Kano, titled “Understanding and Mitigating the Challenges of insecurity in Nigeria”.

With the continued increase in armed criminality in Nigeria, poorly fortified public places such as schools are seen as “soft” and favourite targets of attacks by bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, militants, and other criminal groups. In recent times, direct attacks on schools by armed militants have resulted in the killing and abduction of hundreds of school children and teachers as well as the destruction of school buildings and learning materials.

With schools becoming increasingly vulnerable to insecurity, educating our children has become a serious challenge. The attendant effects of insecurity on the development of education in a country that is struggling to meet the Sustainable Development Goals targets on education are troubling. In this paper, I will make an attempt to briefly explore the phenomenon of insecurity in schools. Drawing from extant secondary sources of data, my analysis outlines the various dimensions and manifestations of security challenges facing Nigerian schools as well as the various approaches used in responding and coping with those challenges.

Finally, I used the current security challenge of banditry in the North-West and Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East as examples to highlight some of the impacts of lack of security in schools on educational outcomes in the country.

The challenge of securing lives and property has been as old as human society. Throughout history, human communities have grappled with one security challenge or another, and only a few societies in history have been able to arrest all security threats and challenges. In both the developed and developing world, security challenges have remained top on the agenda of governments, civil society organisations and the people. In the developed world, even though economic development, effective political institutions, especially those responsible for policing and the administration of justice, have considerably succeeded in providing security and curtailing insecurity, threats of violent crimes continue to affect people in most countries.

The situation in the developing world is even worse. Throughout Asia, Latin America and Africa, insecurity has continued to claim thousands of lives annually. Governments of various countries appear helpless in dealing with multifarious violent crimes and other security challenges. For instance, in Nigeria, profound changes in the economic and social system have led to a bourgeoning crisis of insecurity that affects all nooks and corners of the country. Major among the ever-changing security challenges facing the Nigerian society include terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, rural banditry, political thuggery, cult violence, natural resource conflicts, ethno-religious conflicts, militant agitations and so on.

These different forms of security challenges not only pose a grave threat to Nigeria’s stability, unity and survival but also have huge human, economic and social consequences. One of these huge consequences is the disruption of social life through targeted attacks on public places such as schools, markets, places of worships etc. Considered as “soft targets”, poorly fortified public places such as schools have become favourite targets of attacks by militant groups, bandits, kidnappers and other criminals. In recent times, direct attacks on schools by armed militants have resulted in the killing and abduction of hundreds of school children and teachers as well as the destruction of school buildings and learning materials. With schools becoming increasingly vulnerable to insecurity, the education of our children has come under serious threat. The attendant effects of insecurity on the development of education in a country that is struggling to meet the Sustainable Development Goals targets on education are troubling. Available statistics (UNICEF 2021) have shown that there are currently over 10 million out of school children in the country, the majority of whom are in the north. As the UNICEF country representative, Peter Hawkins puts it:
“With increasing incidents of attacks on schools and kidnapping of students, the entire educational system in northern Nigeria is at serious risk if nothing is done urgently to put a halt to the attacks and abductions.” (UNICEF, 2021)
In this paper, I made an attempt to briefly explore the phenomenon of insecurity in schools. I will begin with a brief analysis of the relationships between security and human nature, before giving an outline of the dimensions and manifestations of security challenges facing Nigerian schools, the various approaches used in responding and coping with those challenges. Finally, I used the present crisis of rural banditry and Boko Haram insurgency as examples to highlight some of the many impacts of lack of security in schools especially on the effects educational development of the region and country.
The data used in this paper are drawn from official government records, newspaper reports and reports from surveys by development organisations in the country and academic publications. All data were obtained from open sources and verified to be credible. The analysis of extant data was conducted using content analysis procedures to extract evidence. All data were obtained from open sources and verified to be credible.
Security and human nature
To understand the phenomenon of insecurity as it affects schools and hamper the educational development of Nigeria, it is crucial to have a better understanding of the relationships between security and human nature. Historians have made efforts to investigate the historical origins of insecurity in human societies. From the various historical and archaeological accounts of humans, scholars have developed a consensus that threats to human life have been part and parcel of human life since the emergence of early hunting and gathering societies. The scale and nature of security threats have however changed for the worse with the rise of agricultural societies, characterised by competitions over territory, land and resources. In his attempt to explain the origins of modern nation-states, the British philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, famously opined that human life in primitive stateless societies was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. In this “state of nature”, Hobbes noted that lack of order, security and law entailed an endless “war of all against all”. Thus, to prevent/end the chaos and disorder, people came together to establish political entities called the nation-states in which sovereignty is given to political leaders in return for security and protection from harm and violation of rights by others (Hobbes, 1668). We can learn from this perspective, that the central idea behind the creation of social collectives such as the state and nations, as we know them today, is the need to ensure security for all. Even though, early nation-states were conceived with the intention of providing security for its members, scholars differ on the extent to which this important objective has been met by pre-modern states. What is clear, however, is that the industrial revolution and the rise of modern nation states, has brought new kinds of security challenges that seem to defy policy solutions.
It is therefore not surprising that cross-national studies on people’s perspectives on security have found that physical insecurity is the most important concern of people in many countries, especially in the developing world (World Bank 2000). In defining security, people who participated in the World Bank study identified stability, predictability and continuity in their lives as the priority to them.
Dimensions and manifestations of insecurity in schools
Schools in virtually all geopolitical zones in Nigeria are facing diverse forms of security challenges. The effects of these different kinds of security issues faced by schools on education and development in the country is also manifesting in many different ways. Hence, the strategies parents’, students and teachers use in adapting and coping with them are also multifaceted. Below are some of the different dimensions of security challenges affecting schools in Nigeria:
Armed insurgency/terrorism
This is perhaps the biggest and most serious security challenge affecting schools in the North-Eastern part of the country. The brutal insurgency waged by Boko Haram terrorists in the region has caused severe damage to education, especially in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa State. According to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the war has led to the destruction of over 1,500 schools and the death of about 2,295 and displacement of 19,000 teachers (Punch News, 2018) in those states. In addition, the terrorist groups have abducted hundreds of school children, notable among which are the over 200 school girls who were abducted in Chibok, Borno State, in 2014 and the 110 Dapchi girls who were abducted in 2018. Boko Haram’s violent campaign against Western education since 2009 has targeted schools with the sole aim of discouraging people from sending their children to school.
Kidnapping and banditry
Another major security issue that is bedevilling Nigeria and is gradually affecting schools is the phenomenon of kidnapping for ransom or for ritual killings. Schools in different parts of the country are gradually becoming susceptible targets in this growing security threat. Recently, criminal elements, particularly rural bandits in the North-west, have developed interest in kidnapping school children whom they held hostage in order to demand ransom payments before freeing their victims.
According to a statement issued by the Country Representative of the United Nations Children Fund, “no fewer than one million students across the country would miss school this year due to fear of abduction and attacks” (Punch News, 2021b). The UN agency’s statement also revealed that no fewer about 1,436 students were so far abducted this year, 16 of whom were killed by bandits in about 20 different attacks.
In other cases, kidnaps of vulnerable school children were motivated by ritual killings or the trade of human parts for rituals. In most cases, victims of this heinous crime suffer from sexual abuse, physical and psychological torture in the hands of their captors. Children survivors of kidnapping are likely to suffer from acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is associated with depression, anxiety and mental retardation. Such a negative condition affects their future education and life in general.
Cult violence and gangsterism
Like terrorism, rising cult violence is another security issue affecting Nigerian schools. Although cultism and cult violence are more common in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions, there is a recent surge in cultist activities in secondary schools in some parts of the country. Where cult groups operate, members form rival fraternities that fight for supremacy. Their rivalries usually turn violent, leading to killing and maiming of students and destruction of school property. Youngsters in secondary schools are usually attracted to cult groups due to, among other things, peer pressure, the need for protection from bullies as well as to revenge previous grievances. A recent example is the clash between rival cult groups in Government Secondary School, Karu near the FCT (Bejamin, 2018).
Closely related to the security issue of cultism is gangsterism and, like cultism, this is another major security challenge associated with secondary schools in different parts of the country. In towns and villages where gangsterism is commonplace, teenage school children are easily brainwashed to join gangs of criminals from outside or within their schools with the intent of carrying out criminal activities and armed violence.
Students’ riots
Students’ unrest and riots is one of the oldest security challenges in the Nigerian educational institutions. Some riots usually start as normal protests and demonstrations against living and/or learning conditions in schools or perceived maltreatment of colleagues by school authorities or fellow students. In some cases, the protests are triggered by factors and events from outside. Such protests, if uncontrolled, often turn violent when students go on rampage, destroying properties and causing physical harm to people.
Bullying and sexual molestation of students
Bullying of junior students by senior students, sexual harassment of students by their older colleagues are security issues that continue to affect education in most countries around the world. Sexual harassment of students, especially girls, by teachers and outsiders is also becoming widespread in Nigeria secondary schools nowadays. Student who become victims of bully usually experience erosion of their school engagement, as they find themselves alienated from their teachers and peers. Their overall academic achievement because severely affected (Gruber & Fineran, 2015).
Theft and robbery
Theft of students’ and teachers’ belongings in schools is a common security problem in Nigeria. In some places, robbers armed with dangerous weapons storm schools from the local communities to molest and disposes members of the school community of their personal belongings, often causing physical injuries to their victims. Poor security infrastructure and arrangement in most public schools is contributing to the increasing menace of theft and robbery in our schools.
Drugs and substance abuse
There is also a growing prevalence of drugs and substance abuse among students of secondary schools in Nigeria. Drug abuse by students has become a major source of confrontation between students and school authorities and between groups of students. It is also seen as a major contributing factor to other security challenges such as stealing, rape, gangsterism, cultism and so on. Illegal abuse of drugs and substances by teenagers in schools has been implicated in the high rates of school dropouts, poor academic performance and future indulgence in criminality (Ojukwu, 2017).
How is insecurity affecting education generally?
Fear among students, parents and educators and others: Even in countries were incidents of targeted violence in schools are not many, they tend to have tremendous impacts on the schools attacked, the surrounding communities, the country as a whole, if not the world at large (United States Secret Service, 2004).
Apathy towards education: Rise in school dropouts and reduction in school enrolment.
Apathy towards the teaching profession: The teaching profession used to be seen as one characterised by less occupational hazards and stress. However, with the growing security problems affecting schools in many parts of the country, the occupational risks of the teaching job are beginning to receive attention. The Boko Haram insurgency that has ravaged communities in the North Eastern region is an example of how insecurity has dealt a big blow on the teaching profession. For instance, the terror group has caused the death of an estimated number of 2,295 teachers, while over 19,000 have been displaced (Punch News, 2018). Apart from direct attack on teachers, another feature of the insurgency is destruction of schools and educational infrastructure. According to some estimates, more than 1,500 schools have been destroyed. With schools destroyed, teachers and students in the affected communities have been rendered redundant at their homes or in their place of refuge. In a region that has been suffering from educational backwardness, this no doubt is a terrible blow to educational development. A major ramification of the impact of the insurgency is that qualified teachers and people who have the potentials to qualify as teachers become increasingly terrified and less enthusiastic about continuing or pursuing careers in education.
Approaches to mitigating insecurity in schools
The diverse security issues outlined above are being responded to using different measures and approaches. Some of the most commonly used strategies for securing schools include:
Fencing: Schools fencing has been a classical strategy of securing schools from intrusions and attacks. With the changing nature of violent crimes, this age-old measure has proven less effective in preventing heavily armed bandits and terrorists from targeting schools.
Policing and patrolling: Beeping up security in schools located in violent affected communities is a common measure. This measure is not limited to deploying armed police and military men to schools, state governments in the north have resorted to hiring hunters and vigilantes to guard schools (Punch News, 2021b).
Security and safety education: Providing students and educators with public safety information that may help them be able to prevent targeted violence on schools
Risk assessment, threats audits and targeted attacks prevention identified by the US Secret Service and the Department of Education (United States Secret Service, 2004) as the most promising strategy for preventing schools attacks.
Creation of School Emergency Response Teams: Prompt law enforcement response
Community interventions to protect schools
School closure (mostly temporary): Security breaches in schools are usually followed by abrupt closure of schools in affected communities. This measure tends to have tremendous far-reaching impacts on educational development as is being seen in Nigeria.
The Safe Schools Initiative
Launched in May 2014 after the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok, Borno State, the Safe School Initiative (2014-2018) aimed to move students in the highest risk areas to schools in safer parts of the country. The initiative also sought to provide learning materials to school children and rebuilding of schools with extra security measures. But according to a statement credited to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, the implementation of the initiative was being hampered by lack of funds and logistics (Punch News, 2021a).
What is worth noting is that there is no magic bullet, or one-size-fits-all solution to all these security challenges affecting schools in this country. The security measure or a set of measures adopted will depend on the security threat to be confronted, the local context/situation, as well as time and other factors. For this reason, customised risk and threats assessment of schools and crime prevalent in various locations is necessary to developing templates for rapid response strategies and preventive measures.

How can educators, law enforcement, parents and members of violence-affected communities develop their own thinking on security and insecurity in schools?
Again, no one-size-fits-all solution. Each security threat requires context-specific measures to be prevented. However, a combination of following measures have been identified from the review of available evidence on schools attacks across the world:
Risk assessment and threat audits
Schools and local community security initiatives and collaboration
Students’ security and safety education
Creation and coordination of rapid response and risk mitigation.

From the above discussion, we have seen how insecurity is causing serious disruptions to education in general and the teaching profession in particular. It is clear from the brief analysis that security issues facing schools in this country are multifarious, complex and protracted. The problems are also largely a direct consequence of structural problems and dysfunctions in the Nigerian society. As ‘open systems’, schools have become one of the institutions of the Nigeria society that are deeply affected by the rising security challenges facing the larger society. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimize incidental breach of security in schools and reduce their negative impacts on members of school communities. Rather than providing direct guidelines on how they can do that, I hope this paper will stimulate discussions on practical approaches to coping with and addressing the challenges of insecurity in schools.

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