The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday said 200 Nigerian students were still in captivity after school abductions that have plagued the nation since December 2020.
The international organization added that more than 1,000 students have been abducted in these attacks from December 2020 to date in different states across the country.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Hawkins, in a statement issued to journalists in Katsina, said education was a fundamental right of every child, stressing that any attack on educational institutions is a violation of that right.
He said: “An estimated 200 Nigerian students are believed to still be held after-school abductions that have plagued the country since December 2020. “More than 1,000 have been abducted in these attacks from December 2020 to date,” he said.
He, however, welcomed the release of 91 students of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger State, abducted by suspected bandits three months ago.
He said: “UNICEF today is relieved that 91 students of Salihu Tanko Islamiya School Tegina, in Niger State, abducted three months ago, have been freed from captivity. The organization condemned the death of one child who died while held by his abductors.
“Children who went in search of knowledge were abducted at their school – which is supposed to be a safe place for them – while exercising their fundamental right to an education”.
He added: “They spent 88 days in the hands of their abductors before being freed yesterday. It is a tragedy and utterly unacceptable that one of these children died in captivity. Hayatu Hashimu was just six years old at the time of his death.
“We rejoice with the families whose children have been freed – and express our deepest condolences to little Hayatu’s family, who have just suffered the worst loss on top of the tragedy they have gone through for the last 88 days.
“No family should lose a child just because it took the right decision to send that child to school. Schools should not be a target. Children should not be a target. We reiterate our call to authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure schools are safe for all children.”
He added that UNICEF would work with partners to provide mental health, psycho-social support and counseling services to both the freed school children and their parents.