An alarming rise in kidnappings has forced 13 schools, mostly Christian institutions, in Kaduna, Nigeria to close down in an effort to slow the rate of abductions.
The Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority ordered the shutdown after 121 students were abducted last Monday by armed bandits at Bethel Baptist High School in Damishi, according to the human rights organization CSW.
The organization's director said the decision to close the schools was made during a "meeting with the National Association of proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS) and some key stakeholders."
A group of gunmen stormed the school in Damishi town, shooting sporadically as they kidnapped dozens of students, police said.
It was the fourth abduction of students in Kaduna State in the past six months. There have been seven mass kidnappings of students in Nigeria so far this year.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Kaduna state, who continue to bear the brunt of a critical security failure," said CSW's CEO Scot Bower. "The closures and withdrawal of children from educational facilities is a desperate measure, giving the unfortunate impression of an inability to address a situation that has been allowed to spiral inexorably."
He added, "This decision is likely to hurt the education and future prospects of the students concerned, while merely offering a short-term solution to a phenomenon which is part of a state-wide crisis requiring a comprehensive response. As the other attacks that occurred clearly illustrate, people are no longer safe in hospitals, let alone in their own homes."
International Christian Concern, a persecution watchdog, reports these large-scale kidnappings which were originally thought to have been carried out by loosely organized bandits. But recently, Kaduna state governor El Rufai informed the public that these ransoms were used to fund Boko Haram and their extremist agenda.
The United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that more than 13 million children are currently out of school across Nigeria.
"The situation is probably at its biggest crisis point at the moment," said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF's representative in Nigeria.
Kaduna state education commissioner Shehu Usman Muhammad said he is working to keep schools operational by increasing security measures at some schools and moving others.
"Each time there is a kidnapping ... it does also create negative impact on the children in other parts of the state," Muhammad told Reuters.
Abductions from schools in Nigeria have grown significantly since 2014 when members of the Boko Haram abducted 276 female students from a government school in Chibok in northeastern Borno State.
CBN News previously reported that nearly 100 gunmen attacked the Federal Government College in Kebbi state last month, leading to the death of a police officer and a student.
Four teachers and 70 students were kidnapped, most of which were girls.
In February, hundreds of girls from the Government Secondary Jangebe School in Zamfara state were abducted after a large group of gunmen raided the school.
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