Authorities in Niger State, Nigeria, have confirmed that armed “bandits” have abducted 27 children from a government-owned secondary school. Three teachers and a dozen family members were also abducted in the attack, bringing the total number of people abducted to 42.
Gunmen in military outfits attacked and overran the all-boys Government Science College (GSC) in Kagara Town on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, according to a report by Guardian. At least one student was killed.
The attack is the latest in a rising wave of school attacks and abductions that has swept the country in recent years, forcing millions of children out of school.
On Wednesday, the Niger state governor ordered the closure of all boarding schools located in areas vulnerable to attacks from bandits.
Nigeria is home to around 20% of all out-of-school children in the world. Meanwhile, in northeastern Nigeria, 2.8 million children are in need of education-in-emergencies support in three conflict-affected states: Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In these states, UNICEF adds, at least 802 schools remain closed and 497 classrooms are listed as destroyed, with another 1,392 damaged but repairable.
These heavily armed bandits have launched varying degrees of attacks from forest havens which run through northwest Nigeria into neighbouring Niger, terrorising vulnerable rural communities that have been left helpless thanks to a lack of security.
“These are things that are happening all over,” said Mary Noel Berje, press secretary to the Niger state governor. “It’s not possible for any person, not even the governor, to have an idea of who the bandits are. They are not living within us, they are living outside us. We don’t know where they come from.”
One of these forest hideouts is the Sambisa Forest, known to be the base of the extremist group Boko Haram, responsible for kidnapping 276 girls from their dormitory in April 2014, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. About 100 of the girls are still missing.
“Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this attack. Following these reports, the president has directed the armed forces and police to ensure immediate and safe return of all the captives,” said a spokesperson for Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, who has been criticised for not properly handling the state of insecurity in the country.
The Niger State attack is similar to one that occured in December 2020, which led to Boko Haram abducting more than 300 children from an all-boys secondary school in Kankara town, Katsina State, the president’s home state. The incident sparked outrage about insecurity in the country, though the boys were later released.
More than 75 million children globally miss out on the education they deserve because of conflict, natural disasters, or other crises. You can join the movement to ensure every child can access safe, free, and quality education by taking action here.