You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2021 03 10Article 421396

Opinions of Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Columnist: Emmanuel Oladesu

Agony of citizens thirsty for security

The greatest challenge confronting Nigeria at the moment is insecurity.

The economy is, to say the least, is on crutches. Economic and social activities in the Northeast and Northwest have been dislocated. As terrorist and bandits are on the prowl, there is uproar. The entire South is fretting.

Now, insecurity is also taking its toll on education. The fate of the public school system hangs in the balance. It is hit by a double tragedy.

The schools are underfunded. Their libraries are without books. The laboratories are empty. Teachers are not adequately motivated. The population of pupils is huge, exceeding the normal teacher/student ration. The classrooms are simply overcrowded.

The floors of the classrooms are ruptured. In many schools, roofs of teachers’ offices and classrooms are leaking. Some students are without lockers and chairs. Some sit on the ground during lectures.

But, more worrisome is the tragedy of insecurity that has hit the schools. They are without fences, making their invasion by bandits or terrorist easy. Security guards are not even on the ground in many schools.

Boarding schools are worse hit. In Chibok, terrorists invaded the secondary school, taking into captivity innocent pupils. Not all of them had returned. Some of them returned with babies. They had suddenly become mothers. Parents of those still being held captive in the den of terrorists agonise daily. There is no end in sight to their anxiety.

The same calamity hit the public school in Dapchi. The latest invasion occurred in Ngara.

Now, to prevent further invasion and mass abduction of pupils, the government has closed the boarding schools. The academic calendar is distorted till further notice.

Psychologists have been assessing the impact of the unconducive environment on the learning and mental health of students.

The main puzzles are: can there be a sense of safety in far-flung schools that had become targets for kidnappers? Are public schools in the North not gradually becoming death traps?

Are pupils who regained their freedom from kidnappers but likely to suffer post-traumatic experience?

In the hierarchy of needs, food and shelter are topmost. Next are security and safety.

Fears are rife that northerners of school age may now be discouraged from enlisting as pupils due to fear. This may further widen the educational gap between the North and the South. More worrisome is the prospects of drop out on account of insecurity.

There may also be a growing distaste for the boarding system, despite its inherent advantages of proximity to the school environment, reduction of stress triggered by the burden of long trekking to and from the school compound, and the sense of community nurtured by the system.

Common threats may include bullying and the elevation of punishment over discipline. While pupils can, to some extent, cope with bullying, the violence of monumental proportion perpetuated by bandits is off the track. The sight of AK-47 in the hand of bandits threatening to kill, maim and fry them will definitely leave a bad impression. It could be permanent.

A safe school environment is required for effective teaching and learning. An atmosphere of security is naturally motivating to pupils. Therefore, the school should be child-friendly. When the environment is threatening,  there is discomfort. The consequence may be a tendency towards absenteeism, irregularity and psychological withdrawal.

It is, therefore, evident that an unsafe school environment will divert the pupil’s attention from learning to the threats. It will ultimately affect performance.

A counselling psychologist, Prof. Mopelola Omoegun, who condemned the invasion of the schools by bandits, said the pupils would need psychological assistance to overcome the horror.

Speaking on a television programme in Lagos, the former Dean of Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Akoka, said the pupils may lose a sense of trust and begin to suspect any stranger in the environment.

The eminent scholar said the affected children should also be liberated from trauma. He suggested timely individual and group counselling sessions. The psychological assistance, she said, would facilitate their adjustment to the school environment.

The school system is gradually being militarised. Unless the trend is curtailed, the younger generation may internalise violence, thinking that it is part of culture. The victims of today may grow into mindless adults in the future, harbouring hostilities and incapable of exhibiting appropriate behaviour.

Prevention of further invasion of schools by bandits is very important. Security should be beefed up in public schools. Security guards should be on guard.

As Omoegun suggested, pupils should perceive the school environment as a home away from home. It should be devoid of stress, apprehension, threats and anxiety. This is crucial to effective teaching and learning.

Join our Newsletter