In the beginning of June, Plateau State Polytechnic was full of life; students and lecturers went about their normal businesses while academic and non-academic activities went on smoothly.
Fast forward to Friday, June 29, the institution had turned a ghost of itself. There was no sign of life in virtually all parts of the school when TheCable visited. It was a similar tale in a good number of schools in Barkin Ladi and Ryom local government areas where gunmen wreaked havoc.
The incident as well as a reprisal in Jos south had led to the deaths of at least 100 persons, with many villages deserted. Although the villagers had identified the attackers as herdsmen, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), an umbrella association of the herders, distanced its members from the incident.
When TheCable visited some of the affected areas, it was discovered that a good number of primary and secondary schools there have been temporarily closed. Residents said while some families fled to other parts of the state, some are staying away from public places to avoid being caught in another attack.
In Barkin Ladi, for instance, schools in “most of the villages” in the area have not opened since the attack.
“I can say that all the schools there (in the affected villages) are closed, the reason is because the students are out. In my village, for instance, if actually any school is opened, it is only for the Muslim brothers. But for us, I can tell you, the schools are closed,” Jacob Dadi, a villager said.
In the schools visited, classrooms were under lock and key and no one in sight except for few passers-by. Parents in the neighbourhood confirmed their wards have been at home since the attack.
The situation is even more worrisome considering that the secondary schools were writing their certificate examinations when the attack occurred. A parent in one of the IDP camps complained of the burden of the child staying away from school.
“Like now that he is at home, he will get hungry easily and you have to always stay close to look after him. I can’t even go to market and leave him at home,” the woman who gave her name as Wuyep said.
At Government Secondary School (GSS) in Heipang community, the premises looked quiet and unkempt, like a place abandoned hurriedly, with most of the classrooms locked. Same for Pilot Science School, still in Heipang.
Not far away from GSS were a group of young boys seen playing football – around the hour they are still supposed to be in school. Asked why they did not go to school, the children said their teachers have not been coming.
In Exland, the story is not so different. Villagers said the attackers killed 36 persons; graves were seen in various compounds with a good number of the houses burnt down. Even though Prime School in Exland, said to be the major school in the village, as well as others in the area were not touched by the attackers, they have all remained closed since the incident.
“Nothing yet since the attack. I am not even sure you will see anybody here (in the school) anytime soon,” Jacob Dadi, one of the villagers, said.
In the wake of the attacks, about 35,000 persons were displaced and were staying in at least 20 internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, Juni Bala, director, search and rescue, at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said.
Villagers who spoke to TheCable said a good number of the camps – especially in Riyom and Barkin Ladi – were schools that have been shut down as a result of the crisis.
In Heipang village, a church – Korkin RCC Church – was converted to an IDP camp. Within the church premises is Korkin Unity Primary School, a school where classrooms were under lock as a result of the crisis.
Officials said there were about 500 children in the camp – all being deprived of education and good life. While some of the children were seen inside the church building, others were with their mothers within the church premises while a few others could not help playing along the corridors of some of the classrooms.
STUDENTS ‘RUN FOR THEIR LIVES’ IN PLATEAU STATE POLYTECHNIC
No sign of activity at the state polytechnic located in Barkin Ladi. Going round the various faculties, it was discovered that most of the departments were locked while there were barely any cars in sight.
Two students seen coming from the direction of the school hostels confirmed that activities in the school had been “suspended”. “Nothing is happening (in the school) now”, one of them who gave his name as Chong said.
“There was no attack on the school but it was because of what was happening in the neighbouring villages that made the students run for their lives. When the crisis occurred in Barkin Ladi, the students in the school vacated and went home. Most of them spent two weeks; there were no lectures,” he said.
“As for me, I spent my holiday in school. I didn’t go home because my village was attacked; I cannot go anywhere. The crisis affected us because it delayed our lectures; we couldn’t have lectures for some time.”
He added that normalcy was beginning to return to the school and that as of Friday last week, “a few” departments are held lectures. “By next week, lectures are expected to commence fully because students have started to return.”
STATE GOVERNMENT REACTS
Elizabeth Wapmuk, commissioner for tertiary education in Plateau, declined comment on the situation in the polytechnic.
“I can’t speak on that. It will be difficult for me to do that. They have a rector who is the chief executive of the college,” she said, adding: “So, he will be in a better position to answer you and respond to your questions.”
TheCable was not able to reach the school polytechnic but no response had been sent to an inquiry sent to the official email as of the time the report was published.
But Jude Dakur, commissioner for secondary education in Plateau, spoke of efforts being made to re-open the schools that have been closed as a result of the attack.
According to him, “the schools that are closed now were closed because we can’t allow the children to go to the school; they could attack them. But our plan is since normalcy is gradually returning, we are discussing with the area and zonal directors on the possibility of opening the schools.
“Most of the schools were writing their NECO exams. So we are seeking ways to open the schools but that would depend on the normalcy of the situation.”