The Executive Secretary, Benue State Teaching Service Board, Prof. Wilfred Uji, on Tuesday stated that the persistent herdsmen attacks on Benue communities, had disrupted the school calendar and forced 300,000 children out of school.
He said, “200,000 of the figure are secondary school students and 100,000 are primary school pupils, which cut across three local government areas.”
Uji, who disclosed this at a press conference in Makurdi, lamented that the crisis had adversely affected the educational system, especially the primary and secondary school system.
He said Government Secondary School, Gbajimba; Government Secondary School, Agasha; Government Science Secondary School, Logo; and Government Secondary School, Ukum, among others, had been burnt or closed down completely by herdsmen.
Uji added that secondary school students and primary school pupils in public schools in Apa, Agatu, Makurdi, Okpokwu and Ogbadibo had also been forced to leave their schools.
“I pray this should stop; otherwise, it is going to be a nightmare. The situation in the IDP camps is so overwhelming that even the mobile schools we established in the camps, it is difficult to control the teaching and learning process as a result of overcrowding. Students, who are displaced and now taking WAEC, even though we moved them to safer centres, are not finding it easy. It’s painful watching students from the IDP camps coming to sit for exams,” Uji said.
The Executive Secretary noted that the situation had been worsened by threats to teachers.
He said, “I was in my office when some of them (teachers) walked in and showed me threat letters and once this kind of letter is written to you, you better take it seriously or the next day, you find yourself in a different form.
“The future of our children is under attack and education in Benue State is under attack and has been compromised completely due to the situation we find ourselves in. In the herdsmen and farmers’ crisis, the isolated targets are usually the schoolchildren.
“If this crisis is between herdsmen and farmers, why the attacks on educational facilities, much the same way like the fight you find in the North-East. There is a connect between the Boko Haram attacks in the North-East and the attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the North-Central in terms of killings and destruction of properties. It is my firm belief that somebody somewhere is trying to destroy the educational standards of Benue.”
Uji appealed to the federal and state governments to address the crisis, “else we might find ourselves not being able to compare with the people of other parts of the country.”
He added, “We are working hard within our lean resources to see how these children can return to their schools and also equip the teachers with necessary intellectual capacity to help in the rehabilitation of the students.
“Take it that a whole school year has been destroyed and when you come back, you are thinking of recovering the whole year lost and it will take more than five to 10 years to recover. The long-term consequences are there. In 100 years to come, our zone will be educationally backward when compared to other zones.”